Thursday, April 17, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

USA blocks Iraq-Syria pipeline

Washington, April 16
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said today that US forces had shut down a pipeline used for illegal oil shipments from Iraq to Syria, but he could not assure that oil was not still flowing between those two countries.

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Mr Rumsfeld denied that coalition forces had destroyed any pipelines. “We have preserved infrastructure in that country,” he said.

There were allegations that, in violation of UN sanctions, Syria had received 150,000 to 200,000 barrels of oil daily through the pipeline, which opened in 2000.

In a relatively rare public comment, Syria’s ambassador to the USA denied his country was harboring Iraqi leaders and said American accusations were baseless.

“All these allegations are untrue but unfortunately they don’t believe us,” Ambassador Rostom al-Zoubi told Reuters Television.

“We were not supporting the Iraqi regime and we did not allow any person or anybody from the Iraqi leadership or anyone from the Iraqi family to come to our country.”

No war plan against Syria: Powell

US Secretary of State Colin Powell today moved to ease Arab and Muslim fears that the USA planned to follow the Iraq war by invading Iran or Syria.

“We have concerns about Syria, we have let Syria know of our concerns,” he said. Agencies



Iran, Russia warn USA

Tehran, April 16
Iran’s President Mohammad Khatami called on the USA today to stop threatening Syria but said a US military attack on Iraq’s western neighbour was unlikely.

“Our advice to the Americans is to abandon such threats,” Mr Khatami told reporters after a Cabinet meeting. “We reject US threats and allegations about ourselves, and I think the same goes with Syria”.

MOSCOW: Russia on Wednesday warned that US allegations against Syria of possessing weapons of mass destruction and harbouring Iraqi officials would complicate post-war settlement in Iraq.

“The sharp US statements against Syria are apt to complicate the post-war settlement in Iraq,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Losyukov told Itar-Tass, referring to the US allegations against Syria. UNI



Uncertainty over Indo-Iraq contracts

Dubai, April 16
Several Indo-Iraq contracts that were being negotiated for the past one year, particularly in the oil and railway sectors, may now be put on hold after the fall of the President Saddam Hussein’s regime, diplomats have said.

While Indian companies are hoping for a major share of new contracts in the construction sector as well as services industry under the emerging US-supervised dispensation in Baghdad, the overthrow of the regime has cast doubt over the deals that were being worked out earlier, they said.

Petroleum Minister Ram Naik visited Baghdad last July and signed agreements on oil exploration and related business. The Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) was to open an office in Baghdad and was waiting for the green signal from its board to invest approximately $ 63 million in Iraq. The then Iraqi Oil Minister, Amir Muhammed Rasheed, was considering granting ONGC oil concession in southern Iraq.

India was being seen as a strategic partner by Iraq and bilateral trade under the oil-for-food deal with the United Nations (UN) had reached $ 1 billion. More contracts in railways, oil and gas, health and industry, in addition to technical cooperation, were being negotiated.

Under the agreement signed during Mr Naik’s visit, India was to export medicines, wheat, rice, railway equipment and turbines for power generation to Iraq. A trilateral contract among India, Iraq and Algeria was being finalised for exploring and drilling the Tuba oil field between Zubair and Rumaila in the south.

The then Minister of State for Railways, Mr Digvijay Singh, had visited Baghdad in January last year to finalise a deal for building a state-of-the-art skybus network in Baghdad and a 250-km railway line from Baghdad to Mushaba.

The fate of the two turnkey projects worth about $ 2.7 billion to be executed by Konkan Railway Corporation Ltd and RITES, the construction wing of the Indian Railways, now hangs in balance. PTI


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