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I will fight back, says Natwar

"The BJP is not going to decide who the Foreign Minister of India is going to be''



Natwar Singh

New Delhi: Unfazed by the political storm over his being named in a United Nations probe report on Iraqi pay-offs, External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh on Saturday rejected the demand for his resignation and questioned the credibility of the findings of the Volcker Committee.

The Minister said he had the full support of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

``What for?'' he retorted in an interview to NDTV on whether he had ever considered putting in his papers. ``I will fight and fight back. The BJP is not going to decide who the Foreign Minister of India is going to be.''

Mr. Singh said Paul Volcker, the author of the controversial report on the UN's oil-for-food programme, had not bothered to contact the Congress or him before recording the findings. Asserting that the report was based on the records of the current Iraqi Government which has ``no credibility in the world,'' he said ``let him [Volcker] produce evidence.''

Mr. Volcker had said in New York that all those named in the report were notified and given a chance to clarify on the contents about them. He also said that he was not aware of the fact that Mr. Singh was the External Affairs Minister of India.

The report by the former Federal Reserve chairman alleged that $1.8 billion in bribes and illegal surcharges were paid to the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Bid to malign Congress

The Minister said allegations in the report were an attempt to malign the oldest democratic and secular party in the world. He said his family had no business dealings with Andleep Sehgal, who owns Hamdan Exports, a firm on whose behalf Swiss company Masefield AG is reported to have lifted oil barrels ``under allotments to Congress and Natwar Singh'' made by the Saddam Hussein regime in 2001.

He said Mr. Sehgal ``is a young man and a friend of my son [Jagat Singh]. He comes here and he is married to somebody who is related to us.'' Asked about his son going to Iraq around the same time as Mr. 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."

Mr. Singh said his son married a girl whose father was Jordanian, a Muslim, and he had gone to spend a few days with his father-in-law. ``Is that a crime?" he asked. The Minister said Mr. Volcker should have had the ``courtesy'' to send him a notice. — PTI

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