UPA-Left Panel on nuke deal to meet in April

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New Delhi, Mar 17 (UNI) The much-awaited meeting of the UPA-Left Panel on the Indo-US Nuclear deal failed to make any forward movement today with the two sides sticking to their respective positions and deciding to meet again in April to further discuss India's negotiations with the IAEA on the safeguards agreement.

With no clear-cut decision emerging from the meeting, the government now faces an uphill task of approaching the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) immediately for India-specific exemptions and meet the May deadline set by the US administration for signing the deal.

During the 75-minute-long meeting, the government presented the outcome of the negotiations with the IAEA in Vienna during the past few months.

Announcing that the next meeting would be held next month, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is also the Convener of the 15-member panel, said "the members of the committee felt that further discussions were needed on the outcome of the negotiations." CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury was also sitting with Mr Mukherjee when he read out a three-paragraph statement.

All the members of the Committee attended the meeting held at the official 5 Talkatora residence of Mr Mukherjee.

After the meeting, neither Mr Mukherjee nor any of the members of the Panel entertained any question from the media.

CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan, who is also a member of the panel, told UNI that the government had briefed the members about the negotiations that took place on the India-specific safeguards agreement, which is crucial for the operationalisation of the 123 agreement on the civil nuclear deal.

"The next meeting was decided in the light of the need for getting clarified a number of points with regard to the negotiations with the IAEA," Mr Bardhan said.

Asked if the government still wanted to go ahead with the deal, Mr Bardhan said : "yes, they want to see the deal through. This is why they are talking to us. But how can they go ahead with it?" He, however, expressed the hope that the government would not take any decision without taking into consideration the final findings of the UPA-Left panel.

Asked how long a solution is expected to be found in the context of both sides sticking to their respective positions, Mr Bardhan said : "may be even more than three months." CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat had already stated that the Left parties would need at least two to three months to study the technical document pertaining to the agreement reached with the IAEA.

UNI KSA/SH RP GC1919

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