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N-deal: Wait and watch, says Pranab

Leaders of the Left parties and the ruling Congress are expected to meet next week and try to improve their ties.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2007 00:08 IST

Leaders of the Left parties and the ruling Congress are expected to meet next week and try to improve their ties, strained over the India-US civilian nuclear deal.

"Wait and watch," External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Chennai when asked about the options before the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA). Mukherjee is likely to be the government's interlocutor at the meeting.

Mukherjee met DMK head and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi in Chennai on Saturday but refused to say if they discussed the nuclear deal. Karunanidhi has been one of the staunchest supporters of the government over the issue. The Congress has been meeting its major UPA partners in the wake of the Left's barely-veiled threat to pull the plug on the government.

The Left also had an internal summit Saturday, when Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat met his Communist Party of India (CPI) counterpart AB Bardhan to brief him about Friday's CPI-M Central Committee resolution on the deal.

The committee had endorsed the CPI-M Politburo stand to oppose the civilian nuclear deal between India and the US.

Left sources said Karat also briefed Bardhan about the meeting between CPI-M Politburo member Sitaram Yechury and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.

Yechury reportedly told the PM about the party resolution, after which he told the media: "We only want the government to press pause on the nuclear deal, not to hit eject or stop buttons."

The meeting between Singh and Yechury was followed by a Congress core committee meeting on Friday night, presided over by party chief and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi shortly after her return from South Africa. Singh and Mukherjee were present, and reportedly the decision to hold another round of talks with Left parties was taken there.

On Saturday, Mukherjee refused to spell out the government's plans to resolve the political crisis.

"Just wait and watch to see what are the options left (with us)," Mukherjee told reporters when asked what "options" the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had.

There will be a debate in parliament on the India-US nuclear deal, he confirmed on the sidelines of a ministry of external affairs function in Chennai.

"The business advisory committee of parliament will shortly decide the date of the debate."

Asked if the Congress' allies will intervene in the debate, he said: "Intervention by partners of the UPA government are always welcome.

"Discussions among the political parties, particularly those supporting the government" are good, the minister said, without referring to the Left parties that support of the government but oppose the nuclear deal.

First Published: Aug 25, 2007 19:30 IST