UPA-Left panel on nuclear deal meeting put off till June 25

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New Delhi, Jun 18 (UNI) A crucial meeting of the UPA-Left panel on the Indo-US nuclear deal, scheduled for today, was postponed till June 25 with slender chances of rapprochement between the ruling Congress-led coalition and the Left parties.

The government is apparently determined to push the deal through while the Left parties are steadfast in their opposition to the pact.

Earlier, the May 28 meeting of the panel was put off till today.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has recently stressed that the Indo-US nuclear deal, which has ''run into some difficulties'' is vital for India's ''strategic interests'' and energy security.

Besides, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and External Affairs Minister and Panel Convenor Pranab Mukherjee have made a strong pitch for the deal.

The official reason given for the postponement of today's meeting was the pre-occupation of Mr Mukherjee with the four-day visit of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

However, Left insiders believe Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had failed to convince the UPA allies, who are not ready to face a preponed general elections.

Mr Mukherjee made two last-ditch efforts to convince the Left leaders that they should allow the Government to approach the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a safeguards agreement.

The Left parties later made an earnest appeal to the UPA allies to prevail upon the Manmohan Singh government not to proceed to seek approval of the text of the India-specific safeguards agreement from the Board of Governors of the IAEA and reiterated their implacable opposition to the Indo-US nuclear pact.

''The joint statement we have issued this evening is essentially in the nature of an appeal to the allies,'' CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan told UNI shortly after the four Left parties held a meeting to discuss the situation arising out of the postponement of the meeting.

The Congress said it was committed to finalising the Indo-US nuclear deal and was confident of convincing the UPA allies and the Left about the importance of the pact for India's energy security.

AICC spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan told reporters that the UPA-Left panel on the deal could not hold its meeting today as Mr Mukherjee was busy in connection with the visit of the Syrian President.

''There was no other reason'' for postponing the meeting for a week, she said.

In a related development, Railway Minister and RJD Chief Lalu Prasad convened a meeting of cabinet colleagues belonging to his party wherein it was pointed out that the deal could not be executed at the expense of the Left parties, whose crucial support could be needed the next time also.

Left watchers say it appears that the Prime Minister is determined to get the deal through, even as the prominent UPA allies- the NCP, RJD and DMK- are on record to have opposed any move which will destabilise the present government at the Centre.

They say NCP president Sharad Pawar has maintained that even though the deal is good, but the government could not be sacrificed for the sake of the agreement. The DMK is also not in favour of a breaking point. Mr Lalu Prasad is also not for enforcing elections on the issue.

Although the Government was ready ... picking up from para three, line one of DI20, NUCLEAR-SECOND LEAD LEFT-UPA TWO NEW DELHI.

UNI KSA/SN RP RN1952

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