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Troops talks in limbo

New York, Sept. 26: At the end of wide-ranging talks with a host of world leaders here during this week, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is of the impression that it will take “more time” for any international consensus on Iraq.

In an obvious reference to a US draft Security Council resolution around which world leaders talked about Iraq’s stabilisation this week, Vajpayee told Indian correspondents that although efforts were on for a new formula, there were no results yet.

US President George W. Bush this week held separate meetings with French President Jacques Chirac, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Iraq on the margins of the UN General Assembly.

Vajpayee said India was willing to take part in Iraq’s reconstruction. “We had said this earlier, too.”

But on sending troops to Iraq, he said the troops were needed there for peace enforcement, not for peacekeeping operations, in which India had traditionally taken part in many parts of the globe.

India wanted Iraqis to rule in Iraq as soon as possible, reflecting a stand much more close to that of France than any other country which opposed the war.

External affairs minister Yashwant Sinha is to have a meeting later today with his French counterpart Dominique de Villepin.

Vajpayee confirmed having told the Americans that India’s internal security situation is such that troops cannot be spared. “There is an increase in cross-border terrorism,” Vajpayee said, a point on which the Americans are also in agreement now.

Diplomats here believe it is a clever argument to force Washington to tighten the screws on General Pervez Musharraf on the issue of exporting terror to India.

Musharraf had himself used a similar argument when Indian troops were mobilised on the border with Pakistan and pleaded his inability to do more for the Americans on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border by way of curbing the movement of the Taliban and al Qaida.

The Prime Minister said the issues raised by Iraq were by no means confined to Iraq. “We have to consider what will happen if a similar crisis arose in another part of the world and work out the modus operandi of resolving any such crisis in future.”

He downplayed the omission by Bush of India in his UN speech where the US President referred to many other places where terrorism was taking its toll.

While it was natural for the people of India to feel disappointed at the omission, he pointed out that India has been fighting terror for a long time. “We will deal with it,” he said. What is now happening is that the Indian fight against terror had become part of a global fight.

Vajpayee expressed satisfaction with the progress of India’s claim for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. More countries, he pointed out, were now supporting the Indian claim.

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