The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinha turns Saddam’s ‘friend’ in need

New Delhi, Nov. 29: The government has assured Parliament it will “not let down” President Saddam Hussein, but maintained that Iraq should comply with the UN inspection of weapons of mass destruction.

“President Saddam Hussein has been a friend of India. He should not feel let down when he is under pressure. We are keeping a close watch on the situation,” foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said during a discussion on the fast-paced developments in West Asia in both Houses of Parliament.

Sinha spelt out Delhi’s stand on the crisis. Expressing concern over a possible attack on Iraq by the US, he said any action must be under the auspices of the UN and the issue should be resolved through peaceful means.

If the UN inspectors find no weapons of mass destruction, the sanctions imposed on Baghdad since 1990 should be lifted, the foreign minister added.

But he cautioned: “Let us not allow emotions to overtake our stand and responsibility and let national interest and idealism, which have been the two pillars of our foreign policy, give expression to our position.”

Sinha maintained that Baghdad, too, while complying with the UN Security Council resolutions, should repatriate Kuwaiti and third-party nationals and return Kuwaiti property.

The foreign minister pointed out that Delhi had “high stakes” in the region as India imported most of its crude oil from the Gulf and had a 3.5 million-strong Indian diaspora there.

Sinha said India’s foreign policy was deeply influenced by the idealism of the freedom struggle and based on national interest.

He said India has conveyed to the UN and Non-aligned Movement countries that the legitimacy of international law should be respected while dealing with Iraq.

The minister felt that a war in Iraq could create “unforeseen consequences and destruction” geo-politically that could extend far beyond the region.

Referring to a meeting he had a few months ago with Arab ambassadors, Sinha said that even among them there was no unanimity on Iraq.

Most of the members during the discussion in Parliament expressed their support for the stand taken by the government, especially Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s recent remark that sovereignty of nations should be respected.

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