Nuclear crisis: Pranab delays departure for Australia

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New Delhi, Jun 20 (UNI) Amid the crisis caused by the Left's intransigence on the Indo-US nuclear deal, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee tonight delayed by a few hours his departure for Australia where he is due to hold discussions over nuclear energy among other things.

Mr Mukherjee would now leave for Australia tomorrow evening instead of morning, official sources said.

The delaying of the departure indicates that the External Affairs Minister may hold more meetings with the Left and other allies to remove the deadlock on the deal.

The decision to delay the departure was taken after a meeting wih CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat in the evening. The meeting was also attended by Defence Minister A K Antony.

Australia is a key member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and its nod is essential for the implementation of the Indo-US nuclear agreement.

After the meeting, Mr Karat told reporters that there was no change in the stand of the Left parties over the issue.

While threatening to part company with the UPA if it decided to go to Vienna for talks on a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, the Left parties also continued their efforts to build pressure on the allies of the government to stop it from going ahead with the ''disastrous'' move.

UNI NAZ HS KN2258

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