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US backtracks on Headley access

india Updated: Mar 24, 2010 00:11 IST
HT Correspondent

US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer on Tuesday sought to sober India’s expect-ations of early access to American-Pakistani Lashkar operative, David Headley.

He said “no decision” had been taken yet on giving India direct access to Headley.

Roemer’s statement, which contradicted US Assistant Secretary Robert O. Blake who had hinted at the possibility of Headley’s interrogation, evoked a sharp reaction from the BJP and the Left that slammed the US for flip-flops on Headley’s access.

A home ministry official said the US Embassy statement cou-ld indicate a change in US stand.

He added the government was exploring all possibilities under Indian and US law. The manner of access to Headley is essentially a legal question.

U.K. Bansal, special secretary (Internal Security) at the home ministry, tried to find the ans-wers at a meeting with Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium late Tuesday evening.

Bansal will brief Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Wednesday when he returns from his visit to the United Kingdom. “Obviously, we want our officers to interrogate him. That is the first choice,” a home ministry official said. There didn’t seem to be a problem before Roemer’s statement.

To a question if India could interrogate Headley, Blake had said: "My answer would be yes".

In a statement that “clarified” Robert O. Blake Jr’s comments on access for India to Headley, the Ambassador said: “As the Assistant Secretary indicated, the US is committed to full information sharing in our counter terror partnership and in fact in this case we have provided substantial information to the Government of India and we will continue to do so.

“However, no decision on direct access for India to David Headley has been made. The US Department of Justice will work with the Government of India regarding the modalities of such cooperation.”