US defence secretary meets Advani over n-deal

February 27th, 2008 - 6:16 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) US Defence Secretary Robert Gates called on the Leader of Opposition in parliament L.K. Advani here Wednesday and discussed the India-US civil nuclear deal, informed sources said. The defence secretary reached Advani’s official residence in Prithviraj road around 2 p.m. The two leaders had a one-on-one meeting lasting 40 minutes.

Though they did not issue any press statement after the meeting, sources from Advani’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the India-US nuclear deal was the main topic of discussion.

Reliable sources said the US government had sought a meeting with Advani, who is also the prime ministerial candidate from the BJP, to convince him of the importance of passing the nuclear deal before June.

The BJP is opposed to the draft of the deal. Advani had stated the deal would be acceptable “only when it is signed on our terms and keeps India’s interests in mind”.

US officials and senators have been reminding India of the need to sign the deal at the earliest, as it may not be easy to do so as the campaign to elect the next US president gathers momentum later this year.

Apart from the opposition from the BJP, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is yet to convince the Left parties, which are its allies, of the need to move ahead on the nuclear deal. Left leaders have threatened to withdraw support to the government if it goes ahead with the deal.

However, the government is going ahead with negotiations with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna on an India-specific safeguards agreement, the first step towards operationalising the deal.

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