UPA-Left panel completes discussion on nuke deal: Pranab

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New Delhi, Jun 25 (UNI) The UPA-Left panel today ''completed'' its discussion on the Indo-US nuclear deal and agreed to finalise the ''findings in due course,'' thereby buying more time to defuse the crisis on the issue that has threatened the survival of the Manmohan Singh government.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee read out a brief statement at the conclusion of the over 90-minute meeting, indicating that the two sides could not agree on a way out today 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.

Today's meeting, the ninth of the panel, was attended by all the 15 members, barring NCP chief Sharad Pawar who was not in town, said Mr Mukherjee, seated next to CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechuri, who read out the Hindi version of the statement.

Sources said the Left handed over a letter to the UPA, asserting that there was no question of changing its stand against the deal and the only solution to avoid the crisis was to give up the nuclear agreement with the US.

Mr Mukherjee said the panel had ''completed its discussion on all aspects'' of the deal, but its ''findings'' would be ''finalised'' at the next meeting, the date for which would be announced later.

Minutes before the meeting at the residence of Mr Mukherjee, the Left leaders had consultations among themselves and were understood to have finalised a letter which was handed over to the UPA.

Virtually rejecting the attempts of the Congress to mollify the Left through the UPA allies, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan had, shortly before the meeting, said nothing short of a categorical assurance from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi that the government would not go against the wishes of the Left would be acceptable to them.

''Any guarantee from them (UPA allies) will not be binding on the government,'' Mr Bardhan said.

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