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'I have been foreign minister before'

india Updated: Oct 23, 2006 14:30 IST

Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday neither confirmed nor denied the growing speculation that he would be the new external affairs minister.

Asked by journalists at a press conference after meeting coast guard commanders whether he would be the next foreign minister, Mukherjee smiled and said: "Well it's the prerogative of the prime minister (to appoint his ministers)."

Media reports suggested that Mukherjee would take over as external affairs, a portfolio that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been taking care of since former minister K Natwar Singh exited in December for his links in Iraq's oil-for-food payoffs.

When scribes further asked him whether he was mentally prepared to take up the job, the senior Congress leader said: "I have been there before."

Mukherjee was external affairs minister in the late PV Narasimha Rao's government. On his way home from Britain and Finland on Oct 14, Manmohan Singh had said there would be a full-fledged foreign minister soon.