Wednesday, March 12, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM’s statement on Iraq today
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 11
The country’s stand on the Iraq issue will be outlined by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee tomorrow during his statement in Parliament.

Following a vociferous demand by the Opposition in both Houses, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Ms Sushma Swaraj, said the Prime Minister would make a statement in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Mr Vajpayee would first make the statement in the Lok Sabha at noon and later in the Rajya Sabha at 12.45 p.m., Ms Swaraj added.

The Congress and other Opposition parties raised a storm in the Rajya Sabha as soon as, question hour ended, demanding to know the government’s position on the Iraq issue. Mr Pranab Mukherjee (Cong) said the Prime Minister and other leaders in the government had been making statements on the Iraq issue outside Parliament but regretted that the two Houses had not been taken into confidence in the matter.

“An all-party meeting is no substitute to Parliament”, he said, referring to the Prime Minister’s meeting with Opposition leaders yesterday. The members said the Prime Minister should clarify the government’s stand on refuelling of aircraft, use of airspace and other facilities in the event of war on Iraq.

After the pandemonium continued for almost 15 minutes, Ms Swaraj told the House that External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha had come to the House to make a statement on the Iraq issue. However, since the Opposition wanted a statement only from the Prime Minister, she had sent in a word for him.


UN vote on Iraq delayed
Russia, France threaten veto

United Nations, March 11
With France and Russia threatening veto and six undecided members of the UN Security Council still finalising their strategy on Iraq, a vote on the resolution setting March 17 deadline for Saddam Hussein to disarm or face war has been delayed to later this week.

The USA had hoped to present the resolution to the Council today, but it became clear last night that the USA and its allies had not yet won the nine votes needed to pass the resolution.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said a vote on the resolution would not come today as the consultations were going on. A vote could come anytime later in the week, he said.

During the closed door meeting last night, diplomats said British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock suggested giving Iraq 10 days to make “strategic decision” to disarm, then some time to inspectors to verify the benchmarks set for it fulfil before finally taking military action. The Council is to hold an open debate on Iraqi crisis tomorrow. But some Council members said it would not achieve anything as only known positions would be reiterated.

Despite their high pressure campaign on the telephone to seek support of undecided members for the resolution Washington moved along with Britain and Spain, President George Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have so far failed to get nine votes needed for the resolution to be adopted by 15-member Council.

As USA and the UK met stiff opposition, they signalled their willingness to push back the deadline and set some benchmarks for Iraq to fulfil. But diplomats said they did not plan to push back deadline by weeks but only by days. Meanwhile, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz has vowed that Iraq will fight the US “to the last bullet” if Washington launches its anticipated invasion. PTI


US sanctions on Indian company

Washington March 11
The USA has imposed economic sanctions on an Indian company and a Jordanian man for allegedly engaging in “proliferation activities” with either Iran or Iraq, according to the Federal Register.

The Indian company is Protech Consultants Private Ltd (India) and the Jordanian man is Mohammed Al-Khatib, according to a notice dated March 4 and released on Tuesday. Reuters

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