Deal is no prestige issue: Cong

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New Delhi, June 20 (UNI) Strongly denying that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had offered to quit on the Indo-US nuke deal issue, the Congress today said it would not consider the eventuality of the agreement falling through as loss of face for the UPA.

AICC spokesman Shakeel Ahmed would not, however, make it clear whether the government would go ahead with the deal disregarding the Left parties' strident opposition.

The UPA-Left panel on the deal was slated to meet on June 25 and it would not be proper on the part of the Congress to go to the talks assuming that the Left would continue to be critical of the agreement, he argued.

The Congress would make all efforts to take along all its allies in the UPA and the Left on the issue, he said.

Understandably, he was ambivalent while fielding pointed questions which were more or less meant the same: Would the government go ahead with the deal or not? ''Any decision could be taken only after the June 25 meeting...I have not said we will not go forward...Until now there has been no talk of going ahead without a consensus...Dr Singh has made it clear that the UPA is not a one-issue government.'' Mr Ahmed was asked to list the priorities of the party: Running the government and fighting inflation or the deal. ''All the three are equally important'' was his reply.

Responding to queries on the reported offer by Dr Singh, he said it was pure media speculation which was not in good taste. When he had no knowledge of such an offer despite being the party's spokesman, there was no way the media could get such information.

Seeking to play down the UPA-Left confrontation on the deal, he said the very fact that the government could convince the Left on the need for going to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for India-specific safeguards agreement showed that the differences had narrowed down.

UNI SN RR VC1728

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