M A I N   N E W S

Govt to meet atomic panel before Left
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 8
The March 15 deadline set by the Left parties for the next meeting of the UPA-Left committee on the Indo-US nuclear deal has triggered a flurry of activity in the government.

A meeting of the Atomic Commission has been fixed for Wednesday to brief its members on the recently-concluded negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the safeguards agreement.

This meeting will precede the meeting of the UPA-Left committee which is expected to be held on March 15 as demanded by the Left parties.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee have already got a formal briefing from the team which has returned from Vienna after its fifth and final round of negotiations with the international atomic watchdog.

UPA sources did not disclose the details of the agreement but indicated that this was the “best deal they could have got.” There was cautious optimism in the government as its chief interlocutors get ready for another round of tough bargaining with the Left parties, who have renewed their threat to bring down the UPA government if it goes ahead with the nuke deal.

Maintaining that all their concerns had been addressed in the negotiations with the IAEA, UPA sources said their next move would be to convince the Left parties that they should allow the taking of this draft to the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) for its waiver.

The government will point out that the nuclear deal is not confined to the US alone but will also allow India to enter into a civil nuclear agreement with other countries like Russia and France.

While the Left parties have stepped up their pressure on the government, triggering speculation of an early election, Pranab Mukherjee today clarified that neither the Congress or its allies were thinking of elections before 2009 and there was no question of sacrificing the government for the nuclear deal.

In an interview with a television news channel, Mukherjee played down the Left’s threat, saying that there was nothing new in it as this had been their consistent stand.

On his part, the Prime Minister has reiterated his government’s commitment to the nuclear deal, stating that it will be their effort to evolve the broadest possible political consensus in the country on the issue.



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