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Manmohan defends Pratibha Patil

Thursday 28 June 2007

Special Correspondent

‘No charge, only mudslinging’

“Environmental reasons behind sugar mills’ failure”

To visit U.S. in September

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday strongly defended the United Progressive Alliance-Left candidate for President, Pratibha Patil, accusing her detractors of indulging in “mudslinging.”

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a book release function at his residence on Wednesday evening, Dr. Singh said that in the case of her sugar mill — which was served a default notice by a bank for failure to repay a loan — nobody had levelled any charge of wrongdoing against Ms. Patil. “This is only mudslinging,” he said.

The Prime Minister added that there were “environmental reasons” behind the failure of sugar mills in Maharashtra and noted that the Jansatta newspaper had just published a list of 72 such mills which had all defaulted as a result.

Asked about the propriety of recent remarks made by senior ministers in his Cabinet about President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Dr. Singh said those remarks had to be seen in proper context. He said that earlier, President Kalam had spoken about a second term if there was “consensus” but then raised the issue of “certainty.”

It was in the context of this change that the two ministers had commented on his candidature, the Prime Minister added.

On the Indo-U.S. nuclear deal, Dr. Singh said that there were “one or two” difficult areas and efforts were underway to resolve them. He expressed his hope that these would be settled and said that he had every intention of taking Parliament into confidence about the final shape of the agreement.

Though he had been invited by President George W. Bush to visit the presidential ranch in Crawford, Texas, in August, Dr. Singh said he had a very busy domestic schedule that month and it was not yet clear whether he would be able to travel then. He added that he would be going to the U.S. for the U.N. General Assembly in September.

Earlier, while releasing the book, The New Asia Power Dynamic, edited by the veteran diplomat M.K. Rasgotra, the Prime Minister said that a rising Asia was altering the global balance of wealth and power and the continent “must learn to deal with this opportunity.

Asian countries needed to improve their understanding of one another by conducting their own research and studies and not relying on perspectives developed in Europe and the U.S., he said.

See online : The Hindu

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