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Indian anti-corruption talks break down


Supporters of Indian social activist Anna Hazare participate in a vigil in Hyderabad on August 24, 2011. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and political rivals joined forces on Wednesday to appeal to social activist Anna Hazare to end his anti-corruption hunger strike, now in its second week. Hazare's anti-graft drive has brought people onto the streets of cities across the country, calling for an end to the culture of corruption that permeates all levels of Indian society.

The Indian government's efforts to convince anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare to end his fast before his health deteriorates any further failed to produce a result Wednesday, despite an all-party meet held at the prime minister's residence until late into the evening. 

Hazare's advisers said they "were back to square one" after three rounds of talks failed to reach a breakthrough, the BBC reports.

Today marks the tenth day of Hazare's fast.  He has lost more than 11 pounds and has refused medical treatment despite doctors' warnings.  Given that one supporter has already set himself ablaze in frenzied and misguided solidarity with Hazare's protest, the protest leaders, the government and the opposition alike fear what might happen if the activist dies as a result of his fast.

Hazare's supporters are demanding the government withdraw its own draft and pass their proposed anti-corruption bill within four days.

The government has said that it proposes to introduce a new anti-corruption bill which will include suggestions contained in the bill drafted by Hazare's team, the BBC said.

But Arvind Kejriwal, a key aide of Mr Hazare, said the government had "gone back on their assurances", and the negotiations were "back to square one," according to the news channel.

The BBC quoted Kejriwal as saying the government had "agreed to introduce" Hazare's anti-corruption bill in parliament during talks on Tuesday, but went "back on the word" after Wednesday night's meeting asking "us to send a new draft that will be sent to parliament".

Prashant Bhushan, another aide of Mr Hazare, said the government had earlier appeared to be "sympathetic" to most of their demands.

"But [after Wednesday's meeting] we have been told that parliamentary procedures cannot be short-circuited. That some timeline will have to be adhered to, though it is not clear what the timeline will be. We are quite disappointed with today's meeting."

The two sides are expected to hold a fourth round of talks on Thursday.