M A I N   N E W S

Cong on defensive, yet to finalise line of action
Anita Katyal
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 5
Hit hard by revelations of kickback in Iraqi oil deals, the government was today struggling to formalise the institution of a credible inquiry committee, to be headed most probably by a non-partisan eminent person, to go into the charges against External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and the Congress.

The minister and the Congress both have been named by the Volcker committee report as “non-contractual” beneficiaries of the UN’s oil-for-food programme during Saddam Hussein’s regime. 

The government, it is learnt, is veering around to the institution of an inquiry panel, which will be headed by an eminent personality whose credentials are impeccable. The exact composition of the committee and the terms of reference are being debated. Keen to ensure that the panel is credible, there is a view in the government that the Opposition also be taken into confidence in the setting of this committee.

Faced with growing Opposition demand for Mr Natwar Singh’s removal, the PMO had promised to get to the root of the matter and hinted at the possibility of an inquiry committee. The Congress, on its part, had initially threatened legal action against the UN and also demanded an apology from Paul Volcker for wrongfully naming the party in the report. Three days after the issue triggered a political storm, pushing the minister and the Congress on the defensive, the two are yet to finalise their line of action.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi conferred with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the third day in succession.

At the same time, Mr Nirupum Sen, India’s Permanent representative at the UN, has been asked to meet UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the author of the controversial report Paul Volcker to find out the basis on which the minister and the Congress had been named as beneficiaries.

The party was today sucked deeper into controversy following media reports that Mr Natwar Singh had carried a letter from Mrs Gandhi for Saddam Hussein when he visited Iraq. While Mrs Ambika Soni, chairperson of the AICC media department, has rubbished the reports that a letter written by the Congress president could be construed as a request for favour, the party has had to backtrack on its initial resolve to take legal action against the UN. Having been told that the UN enjoys immunity, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi today glossed over the matter, saying they could “sue Volcker”.


HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |