Iraq happy with India's stand on bombings

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at
Sun Feb 18 17:42:26 MST 2001

19 February 2001

Iraq happy with India's stand on bombings
By Seema Guha
The Times of India News Service
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's unequivocal condemnation of
the joint US-UK bombings over Iraq has pleased Baghdad.
``We expected India to take a stand against this unwarranted aggression by
America and Britain on a sovereign nation,'' Iraq's ambassador to India,
Salah Al Mukhtar, said. The envoy said external affairs minister Jaswant
Singh's unequivocal statement in Parliament last November on India's stand
against sanctions and the no-fly zone was an indication of the government's
thinking on Iraq.
Al Mukhtar has sought an appointment with Jaswant Singh to brief him on the
situation following Friday's air strikes. Failing that he would meet foreign
secretary Lalit Mansingh.
The envoy alleged the bombings were an attempt to scuttle Iraq's forthcoming
dialogue with the UN. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is scheduled to meet
the Iraqi foreign minister on February 26 and 27 to work towards a final
lifting of sanctions. The bombings were also an attempt to divert attention
from the Palestinian problem. Al Mukhtar said Iraq was hoping to work
towards a reconciliation with Kuwait during the upcoming Arab League summit
in Jordan.
The PM's criticism of the raids over Iraq comes at a time when the new Bush
administration has been making what Indian officials term as ``insensitive
remarks'' about India. Washington's unhappiness over Russia's fuel supply to
Tarapur, together with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recent remarks
lumping India with Libya and North Korea, has upset India.
An Indian official said despite New Delhi's eagerness to consolidate and
carry forward its ties with the US, relations with Iraq were also
important.``Friendship with one nation does not exclude friendship with the
other,''the official said.
India's sympathies are with Iraq, and despite India's honeymoon with the US,
in Clinton's second term in office, New Delhi maintained high-level contacts
with the country America terms as a ``rogue state.'' Last September, Ajit
Panja was the first senior Indian minister to visit Iraq. While there he
mentioned that India could follow Russia and France in breaking the air
embargo. Later this was denied, but Iraq's vice-president was here last
year. India is in the process of working out a barter deal -oil for wheat
with Baghdad. The oil at a reduced price of $7 a barrel would help India to
tide over its increasingly huge oil pool deficit. This deal would be subject
to UN approval.
India's interests in Iraq are laced with hopes of lucrative deals with the
oil rich state. New Delhi wants to be a strategic player in developing oil
fields and investing in rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure, said to be in
need of urgent overhaul.
 For reprint rights:Times Syndication Service

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