//PM to meet Muslim intellectuals on Bush visit

PM to meet Muslim intellectuals on Bush visit

New Delhi, Mar 04: In the wake of protests by Muslims against the visit of US President George W Bush, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to invite Muslim scholars and intellectuals to a meeting with him.

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, 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 to address these concerns.

The sources said that 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 or any other country.

The deal, which follows the July 18 agreement between Bush and Singh, has found support from the leaders of France, Britain and Russia, 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