The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tough Iraq stand, but outside House

New Delhi, Feb. 18: The government has turned down the Opposition’s demand for a resolution seeking non-military solution to the Iraq crisis, saying “sufficient leverage” must be given to calibrate its stand in accordance with a second resolution likely to be adopted at the UN Security Council tomorrow.

However, the government was forced to modulate the BJP’s version of a statement on Iraq and the UN attributed to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The Prime Minister was quoted at a parliamentary party meeting today by spokesman V.K. Malhotra as saying that if the UN “succumbed” to the combined US-UK pressure, it would become “ineffective” and “lose its moral authority”.

A little later, BJP sources claimed that even Malhotra’s version was “mild” and what Vajpayee had “really” said was the UN could become “morally defunct” if it capitulated to the US.

A late evening statement from the Prime Minister’s Office quoted him as saying any unilateral action by the US against Iraq would be “unfortunate” for the international community and the UN and that the latter’s moral authority could be “eroded”.

The statement also clarified that Vajpayee’s stand was in keeping with that of the government as articulated by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during his joint address to Parliament yesterday.

The President’s address had refrained from critical reference to the US and said: “We share the concern of the entire world on the unhappy situation relating to Iraq. We have deep interest in peace, stability and security in that region.…”

Today’s statement reaffirmed the “hope” that the “wisdom of the international community, expressed through the UN Security Council, would result in a peaceful solution of the Iraqi crisis in a manner which would benefit humanity”.

BJP sources said despite the Congress-Left demand for a resolution on Iraq in the Rajya Sabha today, the government feels it should not be bogged down in any “official commitment”.

“A unanimous resolution would tie down the government’s hands. Why should the government commit itself to a situation which is not there'” asked sources when it was pointed out that despite a Parliament resolution on Kashmir, saying Pakistan-occupied Kashmir must be reclaimed, governments had been flexible to the extent of starting talks with pro-secessionist leaders. “Kashmir is a domestic problem. In Iraq’s case, the Opposition must have faith in the government which is privy to information they cannot access,” they said.

The sources said a final position would be taken in case the council passes another resolution tomorrow, in which the US and UK are expected to further toughen their stance.

CPM flays Centre

The CPM has charged the Centre with backtracking on moving a resolution against a likely US-led war on Iraq.

“The government has surrendered to US imperialism,” said Somnath Chatterjee, the CPM member. “It is clear the government wants to keep its options open. That is why it keeps on saying it is still looking into it (the proposed resolution).”

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