The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal ignores US shut-up signal

Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 25: Ignoring the George W. Bush administration’s displeasure with India’s stand on Iraq, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today made it clear that the US role cannot be supported. There are other countries, too, which allegedly have weapons of mass destruction and the international community would have to focus on them, he said.

“You cannot have double standards on this issue,” Vajpayee said, in an obvious reference to the US government. Washington, which has been talking of a war on Iraq, is also talking about diplomatic engagements to bring North Korea on board.

However, the Prime Minister emphasised that Saddam Hussein must fully comply with the UN resolution and satisfy the world that it has no weapons of mass destruction.

The delicate diplomatic balance, which Vajpayee and other senior leaders of the developing world expressed at the Non Aligned Movement summit here, is clear indication that there is a popular opinion against a war on Iraq, but very few are in a position to stop it.

“I met a number of leaders here. None of them said there would not be a war. But none of them had an answer how to stop it,” Vajpayee said. On one hand, the Prime Minister expressed the helplessness of a large number of nations who do not support the US. On the other, he brought to focus the relevance of Nam.

“Does Nam have a relevance in today’s world'” Vajpayee asked. He answered himself. The movement born at the height of Cold War to express the voice of millions, which was different from the two military blocks, is again faced with a situation where it has to make itself heard, he said. “We are on the verge of another war. The Nam has to be prepared to face the current situation and establish itself as one of the major poles in a multi-polar world order.”

Asked about India’s position on Iraq and whether it would support the US, Vajpayee came out with an emphatic no. “The US stand is such, we cannot support it. We will decide after the war what we have to do next.”

But the fact that Iraq was an issue bothering him a lot, perhaps like other leaders of the world, became apparent during his 40-minute media interaction this afternoon.

“Before coming here, I knew that opinion in Nam will split on Iraq. But no country took an extreme stand. They all wanted to give out a collective message. Every one wants to avert a war,” he said.

Vajpayee pointed out that there was perhaps a way out if Iraq complies with the UN resolutions and assures the world it does not have weapons of mass destruction.

Referring to the relevance of Nam, Vajpayee asked: “Why have so many people from so many countries come here' They all know there will be a war. But why are they here'” He added, minutes later: “Perhaps they are looking for an answer and some support to deal with the situation. Or may be they want to be in a crowd, so that they do not feel isolated.”

The Prime Minister also referred to the massive demonstrations across the world and argued that such rising sentiments and views against a war on Iraq are bound to have an impact, even on President Bush.

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