M A I N   N E W S

PM gets a breather, meets Left leaders
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 31
The Manmohan Singh government today got a breather on the ticklish issue of voting on Iran from unexpected quarters when P5 countries, including Tehran’s crucial friends China and Russia, decided to refer Iran’s nuclear file to the United Nations Security Council.

Immediately after the P5 countries’ decision became known, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a series of meetings on the development which has the potential of wrecking his 20-month-old government. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran briefed the Prime Minister after which the PMO quickly organised Prime Minister’s meeting with Left leaders Prakash Karat (CPM) and D. Raja (CPI).

During the half-an-hour-long meeting, the Prime Minister told the Left leaders that a “new situation” had come about after China and Russia also had supported the P5 stand. Dr Sanjay Baru, PM’s Media Adviser, told The Tribune that the Left leaders assured the Prime Minister to have a “second look” at their Iran stand and would get back to him before his press conference at Vigyan Bhavan, scheduled to begin at 5 pm.

The Iran issue, the Left’s strident opposition to India again voting against Iran at IAEA, is likely to dominate the Prime Minister’s press conference tomorrow for which Dr Manmohan Singh has made intensive preparations.

The decision by Russia and China - which have consistently counselled caution on Iran's nuclear file-for referring Iran to UNSC is nothing less than a Santa Claus to the Manmohan Singh government. That is largely because the Left has been left with no bargaining chips even if the February 2-3 IAEA meeting at Vienna goes ahead with voting and even if India does an encore of its September 24, 2005 performance and again votes against Iran.

The Left’s stand is that it would like to see the draft resolution which has lately been circulated among the 35-member IAEA Board of Governors.

Though a voting in Vienna has become less relevant today, it is still not sure whether there would be voting or not. Cuba and Venezuela look determined to force a vote at the IAEA instead of a consensus decision.

The god-send of an opportunity for the UPA government came after envoys of the P5 countries (US, UK, France, Russia and China) had a meeting in London that lasted into the early hours of today.

The meeting also decided that the Security Council should wait until March to take up Iran's nuclear activities after a formal report on the subject from the U.N. agency, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) which begins its two-day emergency meeting in Vienna on February 2.

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