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Report outrageous, says Natwar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 5
External Affairs minister K. Natwar Singh refused to put in his papers, dismissing the allegations in the Volcker Committee report that he and the Congress party bad benefited from the UN’s Iraq’s Oil-for-Food programme.

Breaking his silence selectively to the NDTV and India Today, the beleaguered minister insisted that he had the backing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He, however, expressed surprise over the Congress party’s decision to send a legal notice to the United Nations.

“There is no question of my resigning as the Foreign Minister of India. I am told that I am doing a good job...So do you expected me to go the Prime Minister and say that since I am doing a good job I am putting in my papers,” he told NDTV in an interview.

“I have the complete support of the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.”

He described as “outrageous” the Volcker Committee report which accuses him and the Congress party as “non-contractual beneficiaries” of the 1996-2003 Iraqi programme that involved bribery and kickbacks to the Saddam Hussein regime.

Mr Natwar Singh asked “Why did Volcker name me and the Congress in the annexures and not in the main report.” He said the annexures were the creation of the present Iraqi Government and had no credibility. “These annexures were prepared by the present Iraqi government which has no credibility,” he contended.

Asked about the BJP’s demand for his resignation, he said: “The BJP is not going to decide who India’s foreign minister is going to be. I am a fighter, I will fight back.”

Mr Natwar Singh denied having bought any oil from the Saddam regime. “No, never” he thundered pronouncing each letter as a capital for necessary effect. He denied knowing the Swiss company Masefield AG. “I don’t know how a barrel looks like. I have better things to do. I have never heard the name Masefield. I came to know about it from the newspapers.”

Mr Natwar Singh acknowledged that he had been isolated within his own party over the allegations. “I am capable of defending myself. As foreign minister and Congress Working Committee member, I am denying the Volcker report. I am very indignant that the Congress party is being dragged into all this”.

Both Mr Natwar Singh and the Congress have denied receiving any notice from the Volcker Committee about the allegations.

He expressed surprise with the Congress announcement that it would send a legal notice to the UN asking for clarification on the report. “I am surprised. the UN is a body of 192 countries for which the Secretary-General is the executive. You can ask for an explanation from the Secretary-General.”

Mr Natwar Singh felt appalled with Mr Volcker’s remarks that he did not know the person in question was India’s Foreign Minister.

“As Foreign Minister I have spoken to our PR to the UN half-a-dozen times. I asked him please get an appointment with the Secretary-General and Paul Volcker and find out the truth and let us know.”

He said if there is anything wrong that “we have done we would like to correct it. If we have not done, then we should convey our displeasure.”

Asked about his son going to Iraq around the same time as Andleep Sehgal, the Minister said “I went to Iraq leading a Congress delegation...my son came with me because he had come with me earlier in 1995 to open a railway line built by the Indian Railways. So, there is no bar against my son accompanying me.”

About the Iraq trip made by Aneil Mathrani, India’s envoy to Croatia, Mr Natwar Singh said “Mathrani can defend himself. He went with me as part of the delegation. He again went as a two-member delegation. They went to the birth place of Saddam Hussein on his birthday.”

In the India Today interview, Mr Natwar Singh was asked if he discussed any deal relating to the oil-for-food programme during his visit to Iraq. He replied that “we had only gone there with the delegation to felicitate them. Once I went there for Saddam’s birthday celebrations. I had a letter from the Congress president for him.

He maintained that he had never asked anybody to favour Masefield AG or Hamdan Exports.



India in touch with UN, Volcker

NEW YORK: India is in touch with the Volcker Committee to find out “facts” about the commercial and non-commercial entities mentioned as “beneficiaries” in the controversial report alleging payoffs in the Iraqi oil deals.

“We are in touch with the Volcker Committee and the UN Secretariat to find out facts about the (Indian) commercial and non-commercial entities in the report,” Indian Ambassador to the UN Nirupam Sen said here on Saturday. — PTI


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