Left permits government to approach IAEA

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New Delhi, Nov 16 (UNI) In a dramatic turnaround, the Left parties today allowed the Manmohan Singh government to initiate talks with the IAEA on India-specific safeguards agreement for the operationalisation of the Indo-US Nuclear deal.

However, top Left leaders asserted that that it was neither a climb down nor a "U" turn from their stated position on the issue.

At the end of 90-minute-long sixth meeting of the UPA-Left panel, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told mediapersons : "The government will proceed with the talks (with the IAEA) and the outcome will be presented before the panel for its consideration before it finalises its findings." Reading out a statement outside his South Block office, he said the findings of the Left-UPA panel would be taken into account before the operationalisation of the Indo-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.

Mr Mukherjee said it was decided that impact of the provisions of the Hyde Act and the 123 Agreement on the IAEA Safeguards Agreement should also be examined.

"This will require talks with the IAEA Secretariat for working out the text of the India-specific Safeguards Agreement." While CPI(M) leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury chose not to talk to the press, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan and Forward Bloc leader Debabrata Biswas claimed that it was not a "climb down" by the Left parties as the government would have to seek their approval before going ahead with the nuclear deal.

To pointed queries why the Left took a "U" turn after being stubborn for three months in their stand against even the government approaching the IAEA for talks, Mr Bardhan retorted back : "We don't think so. You may interpret the way you like." He said initiation of talks with the IAEA did not mean operationalisation of the nuclear deal. There were many more steps the government had to tread past. They included finalisation of the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement with the IAEA, followed by talks with the Nuclear Suppliers Group and finally clearance from the US Congress.

Except RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, all the members of the 15-member panel, which was created on August 7 to break the logjam over the ruling UPA coalition and the supporting Left parties over the implementation of the nuclear deal, attended today's meeting.

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