Indian communists have not changed their position on a controversial nuclear deal with the United States and do not want the government to pursue key steps needed to clinch it, left leaders said on Tuesday.

They said comments by a senior left leader to an Indian TV channel did not represent a shift in their stance over the deal that has destabilized Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's coalition government.

Communist Party of India chief A.B. Bardhan said on Monday that the communists could allow the government to start talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to secure a safeguards agreement to pursue the deal, if it agreed to seek communist approval for the draft before signing it.

But such a proposal had to come from the joint panel made up of the left and ruling coalition parties formed to resolve the crisis, he told NDTV.

What comrade Bardhan has said does not represent any fundamental shift from the left stand, Nilotpal Basu, a lawmaker from the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the largest left party in India, told reporters.

Another senior CPI(M) leader, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said Bardhan's comments were apparently being wrongly interpreted.

Our position is clear, we have said don't proceed on the deal and there is no change in that, he said.

The India-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation agreement aims to reverse a three-decade ban on New Delhi's access to American nuclear fuel and equipment to help one of the world's fastest growing economies meet its soaring energy needs.

It has been hailed as the symbol of a new strategic friendship between the once-estranged democracies. But Singh's communist allies have opposed it saying it compromises India's sovereignty and imposes U.S. hegemony.