Nuke deal: Karat rejects Sonia's proposal to talk with IAEA

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New Delhi, Oct 8 (UNI) CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat tonight rejected Congress chief and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's proposal to allow the Manmohan Singh government to hold informal talks with IAEA Director-General Mohammed El Baradei on the India-specific safeguards relating to the Indo-US nuclear deal.

According to the Left, Ms Gandhi's proposal was rejected as the informal talks with Mr El-Baradei would amount to operationalisation of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

This came at a meeting Mr Karat and his party colleague Sitaram Yechuri had with Ms Gandhi at 10, Janpath.

Government chief negotiator and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony were also present at the metting.

It is given to understand that Ms Gandhi stepped in after the UPA-Left political panel did not yield positive results.

Senior Congress leaders constituting the Core Committee met at the 7 Race Course residence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh late tonight to take stock of the day's developments.

Normally, the meetings of the Core Committee take place on Thursday along with the meetings of the Union Cabinet.

Earlier Mr Mukherjee had a meeting with Mr Karat as part of the government's last-ditch efforts to convince the Left leaders on the deal.

A day after Ms Gandhi made stinging remarks against the Left parties on the nuclear deal, Mr Mukherjee met Mr Karat and Mr Yechuri and was in touch with other Left leaders on the issue.

He had reportedly contacted CPI(M) veteran and former West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu and CPI General Secretary AB Bardhan to create an atmosphere where the dialogue on the nuclear deal would continue not only tomorrow but also on October 15, the fifth meeting of the panel.

It is learnt that Mr Mukherjee has been put on a reconcilatory mission by his party leadership to assuage the hurt feelings of the leaders of the Left parties.

Stung by Ms Gandhi's criticism of the opponents of the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Left parties appeared on a collision course with the Manmohan Singh Government on the eve of a meeting of the UPA-Left political mechanism on the pact.

This will be the fourth meeting of the high-powered panel which has so far failed to make any headway in view of the sharp differences between the UPA and the Left parties over the deal.

The meeting will be held at the residence of Committee Convener Pranab Mukherjee. The two sides today appeared to be preparing themselves for a showdown at tomorrow's meeting.

Top Left leaders were upset with Ms Gandhi's statement while addressing a rally at Jhajjar in Haryana yesterday in which she made a veiled attack on the Left parties by describing the opponents of the agreement as ''enemies of progress and development''.

''The Left parties categorically reiterate that the nuclear deal with the US is against the interests of India,'' the leaders of the four Left parties said in a joint statement here.

The brief statement was signed by Mr Prakash Karat, Mr A B Bardhan, RSP Secretary Abani Roy and All India Forward Bloc General Secretary Debabrata Biswas.

''Those who advocate the deal should know that India is capable of developing nuclear energy primarily on a self-reliant basis. We need not surrender our vital interests to America on this plea,'' the statement said.

The UPA Government seems determined to go ahead with the deal while the Left parties are of the view that the pact is not in the country's interest as it would make India a pawn in the hands of Washington.

That Dr Manmohan Singh and the Congress President are prepared for any eventuality, including the withdrawal of support by the Left to the UPA Government, became clear on Saturday. At an 'Iftar' party at his residence, Dr Singh, when asked by reporters if a snap poll was inevitable, said ''nothing is inevitable'' while Ms Gandhi said if the election were held the Congress would face it.

However, some senior leaders like Mr Jyoti Basu are still making efforts to emphasise on both the UPA and the Left parties to find a way out of the logjam so as to avert a snap poll.

The meeting of the UPA-Left panel will coincide with the arrival here tomorrow of the IAEA Director-General.

In Kolkata, Mr Jyoti Basu averred that his party was ready for an early Lok Sabha poll, even as he called for efforts to work out a compromise formula.

Talking to reporters a day after Ms Gandhi apparently hit out at the Left over the Indo-US nuclear deal, Mr Basu said, ''Ms Gandhi made a good speech in the US. But she has spoken about elections...I think what she wants to do is not right.

But if at all election is held we are ready for that.'' Mr Basu, who was speaking after the release of a journal, ''Rangberang'' at his Salt Lake residence, however, said personally he felt that an early poll should not take place now.

''I have asked Prakash (Karat) and Sitaram (Yechuri) to see whether a compromise formula can be worked out so that we (the Left and the UPA) can get along unitedly for some more days. But I do not know whether that will be of some meaning,'' he said.

UNI

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