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Natwar spurned offer of portfolio, says PMO


  • He was offered a choice between Urban Development and Culture
  • Manmohan was clear in mind that Natwar should not continue as External Affairs Minister

    NEW DELHI: Before Natwar Singh was made a Minister without portfolio on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had offered him the Ministry of Urban Development or the Culture Ministry, but the former External Affairs Minister turned it down, highly-placed sources in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said on Tuesday.

    The sources told UNI that Mr. Natwar Singh, who has been listed along with the Congress, among the non-contractual beneficiaries of the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food programme for Iraq, preferred to be a Minister without portfolio instead.

    According to the sources, the Prime Minister was clear in his mind that Mr. Natwar Singh should not remain in charge of the External Affairs Ministry while the judicial probe into the Volcker Committee's report on the scam in the Oil-for-Food programme was being conducted.

    The sources said Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Law and Justice Minister H.R. Bhardwaj as well as the Foreign Secretary, the Enforcement Directorate and the Intelligence Bureau had been asked by the Prime Minister to go through the Volcker report carefully before he decided on the course of action.

    They pointed out that the Prime Minister was in Agartala on October 29 when the first reports about Mr. Natwar Singh's name figuring in the report appeared in the media. Mr. Natwar Singh was also away in Moscow.

    As it turned out, the Prime Minister flew back to Delhi that night itself because of the blasts in the capital that claimed over 60 lives.

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