The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal & Blair see eye to eye on Iraq

Abuja (Nigeria), Dec. 6: India and the UK want “active involvement” of the United Nations in meeting the crisis in Iraq.

Meeting on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) here today, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his British counterpart Tony Blair agreed that a representative government or an interim authority, to start with, should be formed in Iraq early and the UN should be actively involved in the process.

This, they felt, would help promote the confidence of the Iraqi people and stabilise the security situation in Iraq.

Briefing the visiting Indian media here on the Vajpayee-Blair meeting, India’s high commissioner in the UK, Ronen Sen, pointed out the difference in the situations between Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the Afghan situation was far from satisfactory, India saw a major difference between the situations in the two countries because Afghanistan has the government of Hamid Karzai and has some UN involvement.

According to Sen, Blair made no request for Indian troops in Iraq because, Sen said, he was “fully conversant with our position on the issue”.

Blair is said to have commented during the meeting that his country’s relations with India were “never as good as they are today”. The British Prime Minister’s special envoy, Sir Nigel Sheinwald, will be visiting New Delhi next month to hold wide-ranging bilateral discussions with national security adviser Brajesh Mishra.

Blair, who repeatedly condemned terrorism during the meeting, expressed his appreciation for Vajpayee’s peace initiatives with Pakistan.

Vajpayee’s other bilateral meeting today was with the President of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor, who complimented India’s support for the new telecommunication centre at Accra, which Vajpayee was supposed to inaugurate. The centre, named after the UN secretary-general, will be opened soon. Vajpayee also agreed to Kufuor’s request for an additional $27-million for an upcoming rural electrification project in Ghana. India has already committed $15 million for the project.

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