Govt non-committal on Left demand for "deal-is-off" statement

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New Delhi, Oct 22 (UNI) The UPA-Left panel on Indo-US Nuclear deal today decided to meet again on November 16, amid clear indication that the government has not conceded the Left demand for coming out with a categorical public statement that the deal is off.

The one-month breathing space for the government is seen as sincere effort from both sides to find a way out of the impasse and save the 40-month-old UPA government.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told mediapersons after the two-hour-long meeting that the members of the committee expressed the hope that the issues currently before the 15-member panel would be "addressed in an appropriate manner." He said that the operationalisation of the deal would take into account the Committee's findings.

CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan said the government had given in writing that it would not go ahead with the deal till the committee completed its task.

Asked if the meeting discussed the Left demand for public statement from the government that the "deal is dead," Mr Bardhan said the government should have made the '' kind of declaration we demanded to remove the apprehensions in the mind of the people. But it has not happened." This was the fifth meeting of the high-powered panel, which comprises representatives of the UPA and the Left parties. The next meeting of the panel would be held on November 16.

A few hours before the committee's meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to have expressed his displeasure to Congress' allies in the UPA for going public with their stand on the deal, causing him extreme embarrassment.

Mr Mukherjee said the committee had before it further inputs sent by the Left parties. The UPA would reply to these in due course, he added.

The committee continued its deliberations in a "constructive and cordial atmosphere" on the issues that have been raised concerning the implications of the proposed deal, including the implementation of the Hyde Act on India's nuclear programme and its pursuit of an independent foreign policy.

All 15 members of the panel, barring Finance Minister P Chidambaram, who is abroad, attended the meeting.

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