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Troops to Iraq: Manmohan clarifies Natwar's remark

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JULY 7. The Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, today denied that there had been any change in the Government's position on sending troops to Iraq.

He made it clear that his Government was committed to the parliamentary resolution against sending troops and if ever there was a need to review that position the "Government will hold the maximum possible discussions with all shades of opinion in Parliament".

The Prime Minister's assertion came in the form of his intervention during question hour, after MPs of the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party charged the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, of misleading the House. The Opposition said Mr. Singh had in the presence of the U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, told the media that India would review its stand on sending troops but had changed his position on his return to the country.

Dr. Manmohan Singh assured the agitated members that his Government would be guided by the national consensus on foreign policy. "As of now there is no proposal to send troops to Iraq," the Prime Minister said.

"In matters relating to India's foreign policy, it will be the effort of the Government to work on the basis of broadest possible national consensus."

The Prime Minister made it clear that all political parties were bound by the resolution passed by Parliament and there was no question of his Government deviating from it. But the Opposition continued to press for an apology from the External Affairs Minister and later walked out in protest.

Earlier replying to the queries, the External Affairs Minister clarified that in Washington he had been asked for his response to the Security Council resolution passed on June 8.

He had said that since it was a new resolution he would have to get back to his Government but the question of sending troops to Iraq did not arise.

He had clarified his stand before the Indian media in Washington the day he learnt that his remarks had been distorted.

The Opposition refused to accept the Minister's explanation.

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