Pranab meets Karat ahead of crucial meeting of panel on n-deal

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New Delhi, Jun 17 (UNI) Ahead of the crucial meeting of the UPA-Left panel on the Indo-US nuclear deal tomorrow, the government stepped up its efforts to enlist the support of the Left parties for the agreement but the latter stuck to their stated position.

Panel convenor and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee met CPM general secretary Prakash Karat last night and is reported to have asked the Left parties to allow the government to seal the safeguards agreement with IAEA.

Talking to UNI, Mr Karat confirmed the meeting but refused to divulge the details.

" Yes, we had one-to-one meeting last night but the details will be known tomorrow," Mr Karat said.

When asked about the status of the deal and the Left viewpoint, Mr Karat chose to evade the question on the plea that " Our views are well known".

Another important member on the panel, CPI general secretary A B Bardhan said in tomorrow's meeting ''we will know the view of the government.'' " As far as the views of Left are concerned... our position remains unchanged", Mr Bardhan said.

Elaborating, the CPI veteran said that while the government wanted to execute the deal, the Left parties were vehemently opposed to it.

However, according to observers, the meeting to be held at Mr Mukherjee's official residence at 1600 hrs is not likely to provide any breakthrough with Mr Karat and Mr Bardhan sticking to their respective positions.

While the top brass of the government including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi have made a strong pitch for the nuclear pact, the Left leaders assert, ''We cannot go by a timetable set by the Bush administration.'' The Left parties, in an earlier meeting on May 6, had asked for a text of the agreed draft, reached with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

''But the government has so far not furnished any detail of the draft to us,'' Mr Bardhan said.

As far as the draft agreed with the international agency is concerned, the Left may not find much to object, but if the draft is 123-Agreement specific, they will not agree at all.

The Left leaders said their basic objection is on the 123-Agreement and the Hyde Act. ''Any attempt to push forward the Agreement, is definitely bound to be opposed. Besides, we have made it clear that we are not bound by the US timetable,'' Mr Bardhan, veteran Communist and CPI General Secretary said.

CPI National Secretary Shamim Faizi, on the other hand, remarked that the Left is really worried that everything is linked with the Nuclear Deal...the way the Prime Minister and even Ms Gandhi have linked the deal with price rise and fuel prices ''is unfortunate''.

It seemed that the top brass of the Government have made some unwritten commitment to the US. ''Left is not bound by any such commitment. We don't think that nuclear energy is the only option.

Much cleaner energy sources, like wind and solar, are available in the country,'' Mr Faizi added.

He regretted that the Government, instead of thrusting an undesirable deal on the nation, was not concentrating on these areas.

The failure to clinch the proposed 7.4 billion dollar-Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline shows that the Manmohan Singh Government is definitely under pressure from the US.

''Iran gas contributes a lot in ensuring our energy security. The Left is definitely going to raise this question in the meeting on June 18,'' the Left leaders said.

The stalemate at the UPA-Left panel meetings has been continuing with the government reiterating that nuclear energy is a must to ensure energy security and the Left insisting that even if the Deal is clinched, it will meet just 11 per cent of our energy requirements and that too in 2020.

UNI KSA NY RP HT1435

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