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ITER nuclear fusion project avoids delays as US doubles budget

PARIS, March 26 (Reuters) - The United States has agreed to double its planned 2018 budget contribution to the ITER project to build a prototype nuclear fusion reactor, avoiding delays to the international project this year, its director said on Monday.

Washington cut the United States' 2017 contribution from a scheduled $105 million to $50 million and had planned to cut its 2018 contribution from a scheduled $120 million to $63 million.

But in last-minute talks about the U.S. 2018 budget last week, the U.S. Congress approved a draft Omnibus Spending Bill with a $122 million in-kind contribution for ITER, which President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday, ITER said.

"This is a very positive signal ... it will prevent ITER having to announce project delays in 2018," ITER Director-General Bernard Bigot told Reuters in an telephone interview. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq Editing by Catherine Evans)