US envoy meets Chavan ahead of crucial n-deal talks (Lead, superseding earlier story)

June 24th, 2008 - 10:27 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 24 (IANS) As the Manmohan Singh government tries to evolve a political consensus on the nuclear deal, US Ambassador to India David Mulford Tuesday met Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office. Though the details of the meeting are not known, the discussion between the two are said to have focused on the fate of the India-US civil nuclear deal.

Asked to comment on meeting, the US embassy spokesman said, “We don’t comment on the ambassador’s meetings.”

The guarded response is understandable as the US does not want to be seen pushing the deal.

The meeting comes on the eve of crucial discussions between the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the Left parties that are opposed to the deal, scheduled for Wednesday.

In the past, the Left parties had fiercely objected to statements by the US ambassador and White House officials that gave the impression to some that Washington was dictating a timeline on the nuclear deal to New Delhi.

US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are scheduled to meet on the sidelines of a G-8 meeting of the world’s wealthiest nations in Tokyo early next month. The two leaders are expected to discuss, among other things, how the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement could be taken forward.

The Left parties have threatened to withdraw support to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government if it decides to go ahead and sign a safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) - a step necessary to make the nuclear deal operational.

As the prime minister is keen to push it through, the UPA allies and the Congress leadership are now trying to find a way out of the stalemate.

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