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US taps India on Iraq action

New Delhi, Dec. 5: With pressure building on Iraq to declare all its weapons of mass destruction by Sunday, America today engaged India in a detailed discussion on the options before Washington which include a regime change in Baghdad.

India has so far gone along with the rest of the world in pitching for the UN Security Council to be the main arbiter in resolving the crisis. This means it is against a US-initiated unilateral action against Saddam Hussein and a regime change imposed from outside. US deputy national security adviser Steven Hadley held talks with senior Indian officials and defence minister George Fernandes to discuss the developments. Among those he met in Delhi today were foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and secretary of the national security council Satish Chandra.

Indian officials are aware of the Sunday deadline set by America. But they maintain that even after that, the inspectors would carry on with their work and would ultimately submit a report to the Security Council, which would then decide on the next course of action.

This is part of India’s public stand. But in private, arrangements are being made by South Block to ensure that Delhi’s interests in Iraq are not hampered if a new regime is put in place.

Mishra would be leaving for the US to hold talks on this with his American counterpart Condoleezza Rice and other officials between December 9 and 10.

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