The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia to break ranks

New Delhi, Sept. 5: The Congress has quietly distanced itself from the decision of other Opposition friends to protest the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

The principal Opposition party will do nothing that will be undiplomatic and against well-established parliamentary conventions.

Sharon will be the first-ever Israeli Prime Minister to visit the country. As the leader of the Opposition, Congress president Sonia Gandhi will call on Sharon.

“It is a well established convention that the leader of the Opposition calls on a visiting head of a state/government. This convention will be observed when Sharon visits the country,” party spokesperson Anand Sharma said today.

The Congress will not join other Opposition parties like the Left, the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (S) in street protests against the visit.

Congress leaders pointed out that VVIP visits were part of normal, full diplomatic relations between countries. Having established full diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, it would not be proper to protest the visit of Sharon, they pointed out.

They emphasised that it was the then Congress government headed by P.V. Narasimha Rao which had established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992.

The leaders, however, made it clear that the party’s position of supporting the Palestine cause and an independent state of Palestine remained undiluted.

Meeting Sharon does not mean that the Congress would dilute its support for the cause of the Palestinian people, they pointed out.

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