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George under fire

New Delhi, April 4: Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee is miffed with defence minister George Fernandes after the Samata Party went public against New Delhi’s stand on Iraq even as the party is organising an anti-war demonstration tomorrow protesting the US aggression.

Vajpayee is also angry at the tone of the attack, especially the description of “elements” in the government as “eunuchs”.

At the party chief’s bidding, Samata spokesperson Shambu Shrivastwa had convened a news conference on Wednesday to protest against the Centre’s perceived softness towards the US.

“The talk of middle path approach by some elements in the government was nothing but a talk of eunuchs,” Shrivastwa had said. “Our foreign establishment is infested with people who think US national interest and Indian interest are one and the same.”

Putting the government in a spot, the Samata also sought a joint Parliament resolution to condemn the US attack, a demand that the Prime Minister had rejected at an all-party meeting on March 22.

When on March 11 the Opposition wanted Parliament to condemn the US move, Vajpayee had said the attack has not taken place and if the US takes unilateral action, “we will condemn” it.

Sources said though Vajpayee is yet to personally take up the matter with Fernandes, BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu has lodged a protest with the Samata chief. Fernandes, BJP leaders said, has assured them that he would issue a clarification despite being critical of the American high-handedness.

The sources maintained Fernandes has been critical of the handling of foreign policy, especially by Brajesh Mishra, Vajpayee’s national security advisor. Last year, Prabhunath Singh, Samata member in the Lok Sabha, had launched a personal attack against Mishra.

While the Samata is yet to issue a clarification, the government today went on the overdrive to defend itself. Dismissing the criticism about “middle path”, foreign minister Yashwant Sinha said India will calibrate its position on the crisis as and when necessary.

Saying that under no circumstances should Iraq’s sovereignty be disturbed, Sinha said: “Too much has been made of the middle path adopted by the country. The Prime Minister had spoken of the middle path in another context before the war had actually started. Once the war started, there is no question of the middle path. We have clearly stated that this war lacked justification and was avoidable.”

Notwithstanding the unilateralism displayed by US-led coalition in waging a war bypassing the UN, Delhi is keen that the post-war reconstruction — politically and economically — should be under the UN aegis, Sinha told a news agency.

“We have never supported the war. We still stand by our position that unilateral action was not warranted and whatever has to be done should be through the UN and that war is not a preferred solution,” Sinha said.

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