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Delhi digging for oil clues
- Envoy approaches Volcker panel

New York, Nov. 5: Even as India’s political establishment is working itself up over allegations of bribery against external affairs minister K. Natwar Singh in the Iraqi oil-for-food scandal, Indian diplomats here are already at work quietly to get to the bottom of the entire Indian involvement in the scheme.

Within 24 hours of Paul Volcker releasing his final report on the $60-billion UN-run programme to ease Iraqi suffering from sanctions, India’s permanent representative to the UN, Nirupam Sen, formally approached the Volcker committee for full details on all Indian entities ' including Singh and the Congress Party ' which had allegedly creamed money off the humanitarian programme, crafted to help the Iraqi people.

“We are in touch with the Volcker committee to get to the truth about Indian entities cited in the report,” Sen told The Telegraph today.

The external affairs minister told a TV channel this morning that “as foreign minister, I have spoken to our permanent representative to the UN half a dozen times... I have asked him to get an appointment with the secretary-general and Paul Volcker and find out the truth and let us know.”

Sources at the UN Secretariat said it is highly unlikely that secretary-general Kofi Annan could shed any light on the allegations against Singh or the Congress Party.

“We don’t have any documentation or facts. This is an independent inquiry, although it was authorised by the secretary-general. The facts are all with the committee.”

Other sources here said Volcker may have shown Annan documents about the secretary-general’s role because of allegations that his son was involved in the scam, but not about anyone else.

Committee sources said Indian diplomats approached the panel swiftly and formally, saying they needed to know the basis of charges of involvement by about 130 Indian companies and individuals.

The diplomats told committee officials that they are seeking the facts also because they have to determine if any Indian laws had been broken in the Iraqi deals.

Committee sources said they were in the process of collecting details pertaining to India, adding that Volcker personally would have no knowledge of the details of investigations.

To get to the bottom of the allegations, Indian officials would have to meet at least a score of the 100-odd international investigators, whom the panel employed at a cost of $35 million to dig up all the dirt.

Singh said in the TV interview that he enjoyed the “full confidence” of both the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. However, asked whether Singh would stay on as foreign minister, a government source said: “That remains to be seen,” adds our special correspondent in Delhi.

At the ministry of external affairs, top officials are said to be aghast that Congress leaders should talk about sending a legal notice to the UN, of which India is a member.

‘Bullshit’

Bharatpur (PTI): Natwar Singh has told a public meeting that the Paul Volcker report is “bullshit” and “full of lies”.

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