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Since 1st March, 1999
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Envoy leaves, others don’t

New Delhi, March 17: The nuns are staying, though the envoy is not.

Three nuns working for Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Karbala have refused to abandon the work they are doing among Iraqi civilians and leave the country as the US prepares to go to war.

India’s ambassador in Iraq B.B. Tyagi has already left for Amman, entrusting Iraqi staffers with the running of the embassy.

Some other Indian nationals, including eight charity workers and four students, and 14 businessmen in Baghdad and other cities have also refused to leave.

“Ambassador Tyagi and the other Indian staffers will be monitoring the developments from Amman and will extend help whenever required,” foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

New Delhi has set up a crisis management group headed by R.M. Abhayankar, secretary in the foreign ministry, to monitor developments and take action.

The group, which had its first meeting today, has officials from the defence, civil aviation, labour and petroleum ministries.

A control room has been set up in the foreign ministry to answer queries about Indian nationals working in the region. Officials ruled out immediate evacuation.

“The people working there told us that there is no need to panic and, though all preparations are being made, there is no decision to start evacuating Indian nationals,” Sarna said.

Asked how often the crisis management group would meet, the spokesman said, “As and when the need requires”.

But sources in South Block pointed out that the foreign minister Yashwant Sinha who took the initiative of setting up the crisis management group has asked his officials to keep him posted on a day-to-day basis on developments in Iraq and those coming from neighbouring countries.

India started making preparations to deal with a war in Iraq from last week. The foreign minister not only called off his meeting in Brussels with the European Union troika, but also asked the 50 Indian nationals who were in Iraq to move out to safer places. But nearly 30 Indian nationals have decided to stay on in Iraq despite instructions issued by the government asking them to leave the country and move to safer places.

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