OTHERS

Antony 'rejects' Karunakaran's help

NEW DELHI, NOV. 1. Practically rejecting the senior Congressman, Mr. K. Karunakaran's offer to help break the deadlock in the Kerala Assembly, the State Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Antony, today said ``it is a matter of the House and should be resolved internally''.

Replying to questions at a press conference here today, Mr. Antony refused to be drawn into a confrontation with Mr. Karunakaran over the standoff that had forced the adjournment of the Assembly till November 11. The Opposition had been disrupting proceedings of the Assembly for the last few days over the suspension of three members of the House.

Repeatedly maintaining that it was an internal matter of the Assembly, the Chief Minister offered to intervene and reduce the suspension period provided the Opposition cooperated and stopped disrupting proceedings. As for his preparedness to listen to the former Speaker, Mr. Varkala Radhakrishnan, on this matter, Mr. Antony said the former had approached him on his own and, therefore, he had heard him out.

As for the fracas in Kozhikode this morning following the arrest of the DCC president, Mr. M. Veerankutty, the Chief Minister said: ``No one is above the law and the High Court has set out guidelines for demonstrations and processions in the State.''

About the slow pace of development in Kerala, Mr. Antony sought to remind the Press that he had inherited a bankrupt State. ``Even I'm not happy with the pace of development in Kerala, but I have my limitations.''

As to the fate of the series of representations he had made to the Centre a couple of months ago, Mr. Antony -- who met the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, today -- said he had been assured that the procurement of copra would begin from next week itself. However, he was unable to quantify the procurement that had been assured.

Besides this assurance, Mr. Antony returns with the promise that Kerala would get Rs. 300 crores as an advance from the Plan Fund. Further, the State has been permitted to go in for addition market borrowings to the tune of Rs.300 crores in February.

Also, according to the Chief Minister, he had been assured that efforts would be made to include rubber among the agricultural commodities in the next round of WTO negotiations. The Prime Minister is also said to have informed Mr. Antony that the Centre was examining the possibility of increasing import duty on rubber as far as possible within the WTO regime.

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