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PM to meet Muslims over Bush visit
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March 04, 2006 12:06 IST

In the wake of protests by Muslims against the visit of United States President George W Bush [Images], Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] has decided to invite Muslim scholars and intellectuals for a meeting.

Concerned over the loss of life and violence during the protests, Singh is likely to tell them that the nuclear deal reached with Bush was not an endorsement of whatever the US was doing in Iraq and elsewhere. The meeting is likely to be held after the current Parliament session.

Iraq was one of the 'problem areas' between New Delhi and Washington, DC, highly-placed sources said today, adding that hopefully Iran's nuclear programme would not fall in a similar category.

The sources conceded that even within the higher echelons of the Congress party there had been concerns about certain aspects of the nuclear deal. Before agreeing on it, the prime minister had briefed the party president Sonia Gandhi [Images] on these concerns.

The sources said Singh had explained the nuclear deal to the Left parties "at every step" but more needs to be done to convince them.

At the proposed meeting with Muslim intellectuals the prime minister is likely to emphasise that the deal with the US was not directed against any community or country.

In fact, in recent months Singh has told even the Chinese leadership that the nuclear deal was not directed against Beijing [Images] or any other country.

The deal, which follows the July 18 agreement between Bush and Singh, has found support from the leaders of France [Images], Britain and Russia [Images], the sources said, adding that after his recent visit to India the French President Jacques Chirac had telephoned Bush to say that India had a very good case.

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