Nuke deal: UPA-Left panel to meet on Mar 17

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New Delhi, Mar 10: The high-powered UPA-Left panel on the Indo-US nuclear deal will meet here on March 17 to discuss the negotiations India has held with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the safeguards agreement.

This was conveyed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's office to the CPI(M) office this evening, according to CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechuri. Mr Mukherjee is the convenor of the panel. The last meeting of the committee was held on November 20 last year at which the Left parties permitted the UPA Government to hold talks with the IAEA on the safeguards accord. In the upcoming meeting, the government is expected to brief the Left leaders on the talks it has held so far with the international nuclear watchdog. The government is also likely to come out with a note on the post-IAEA negotiations that will be debated by the meeting.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat yesterday had indicated about the meeting, whose date and time was to be decided today. The crucial meeting would take place in the backdrop of the two Communist parties adopting a tough stance on the Nuke deal, with the CPI going to the extent of withdrawing its support to the UPA government if the latter decided to operationalise the deal.

Mr Karat had earlier written a letter to the Panel convenor setting the deadline of the meeting by March 15 so as to ascertain the ''government's mind'' on the issue in the context of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr Mukherjee's statments in both Houses of Parliament in which they had talked about the government's keenness to build a broad political consensus to ''carry forward'' the deal.

This, however, had angered the Left parties who issued veiled threat to the government to withdraw support to the Manmohan Singh government.

The Panel was set up to sort out differences among the Government and the Left parties on the deal with both the sides adopting a divergent position. While the Congress-led coalition asserted that the deal was in favour of the nation, the Left found it against the nation's independent foreign policy, soverignity and security concerns.


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