UPA appears set to opt for deal, ignoring Left

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New Delhi, Jun 25 (UNI) The Manmohan Singh government tonight appeared to be getting ready to bite the bullet on the Indo-US nuclear deal as UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi held an emergency meeting of the Congress core committee apparently to weigh the option of going ahead with the pact, ignoring the Left's threat of pulling the plug on the government.

The meeting, which was attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil among others, was held shortly after the UPA-Left panel ''completed'' its discussion on the deal and agreed to finalise the ''findings in due course'' as there was obviously no meeting point between the two sides which have taken rigid stands.

Congress sources would not rule out the possibility of the government approaching the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), before Dr Singh leaves for the G8 summit in Japan where he would hold a meeting with US President George Bush by the end of the first week of next month.

Once the India-specific safeguards are finalised, the deal would go on the auto mode, with the US mantling the responsibility of seeing it through at the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the US Congress.

While Dr Singh has made his intentions clear in favour of the deal, Ms Gandhi, according to party sources, entirely concurs with him but would prefer to accommodate the sentiments of at least the UPA allies.

Earlier, the issue was discussed for nearly two hours at the nineth meeting of the UPA-Left panel headed by Mr Mukherjee.

The meeting was attended by all the high profile members, except Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar who was out of the country.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, DMK leader T R Baalu and Left leaders-- Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury, Debabrat Biswas- were among others who attended the meeting.

A top Left leader told UNI that he felt that the government would go to Vienna to talk to the Board of Directors of the IAEA to finalise the safeguards agreement.

''The government may go to the IAEA in another 10 days or one month,'' said the Left leader, who did not want to be identified.

CPI general secretary A B Bardhan said the discussions were over today and the next meeting would be held only to record the findings.

CPI national secretary Shamim Faizi claimed that now the Left had given time to the government to readjust its priorities and concentrate more on containing inflation.

''It is obvious that the allies as well as outside supporters don't want imposition of early Lok Sabha elections. Now the government should immediately take radical steps on price front.

''The Left will not allow the government to go to the IAEA without first taking the nation into confidence on the frozen text with the international agency as well as the impact of the Hyde Act on the 123 Agreement,'' Mr Faizi said.

Mr Mukherjee read out a brief statement at the conclusion of the meeting, indicating that the two sides could not agree on a way out and agreed to defer resolution of the issue that has snowballed into a showdown.

According to political sources, the next meeting of the panel, chaired by Mr Mukherjee, would now be held only after at least 10 days as the CPI(M) has convened its Polit Bureau meet on June 29. The United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) will also hold a meeting to discuss the issue and other matters on July 3.

Editors: Please pick up from line one, para one of DI 54, NUCLEAR-OVERALL LEAD UPA-LEFT PANEL TWO NEW DELHI.

UNI KSA/YJ/SN SK NS2321

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