UPA-Left panel meeting begins on nuke deal

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New Delhi, June 25 (UNI) The UPA-Left panel meeting on the Indo-US nuclear deal began here today amid speculation that the Left parties would issue a fresh warning to the government against going ahead with the controversial agreement with Washington.

Minutes before the meeting at the residence of the panel chairman and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the Left leaders had consultations among themselves and were understood to have finalised a letter which would be handed over to Mr Mukherjee.

Virtually rejecting the attempts of the Congress to mollify the Left through the UPA allies, CPI General Secretary A B Bardhan 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.

The crucial UPA-Left panel meeting had been preceded by hectic consultations throughout the day today and in the last few days.

This morning, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat met Mr Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony. Subsequently, the External Affairs Minister called on Ms Gandhi and Dr Singh.

Later, Mr Karat had a meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, a key member of the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) or the third front.

A short while before the panel meeting, AICC spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan told reporters that there was no threat to the government. But a Left leader said this would be known only after the panel meeting.

Major UPA allies, the DMK and the RJD, have preferred a middle path on the issue, stating that they were for the deal but not at the cost of a breakup with the Left and forcing an early Lok Sabha election on the nation at a time when galloping inflation was creating an anti-incumbency wave.

Besides Mr Mukherjee, among those attending the meeting were Mr Bardhan, Mr D Raja and Mr Karat and Union Ministers Mr Kapil Sibal and Mr Saifuddin Soz.


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