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Sonia is great for Natwar

The Congress chief has 'so far not said anything against me and neither will I say anything against her', says Natwar.

india Updated: Aug 11, 2006 19:10 IST

Suspended Congress leader Natwar Singh on Friday said Sonia Gandhi has so far not said anything against him and "neither will I say anything against her".

"In her generosity and greatness, she has not said anything against me till today. Neither will I say anything against her," Singh told a crowded press conference.

Singh contended that during his entire stay in Baghdad in January, 2001 when he led a Congress delegation to Iraq, there was no discussion with any Iraqi authority on the oil-for-food Programme.

"There was no discussion on oil contracts, vouchers, receipts or banks accounts. Ours was a political delegation," he said.

On his return to India, Singh said he had "fully briefed" Sonia Gandhi about his meetings in Baghdad. "Ours was a political delegation".

Singh went on to say that "not a leaf moves in the Congress party without Sonia Gandhi's knowledge." This was based on his long experience with the party, he said.

Singh said the Pathak Authority completely absolved him and his son of any financial impropriety or gain in the oil-for-food scam.

"The report has many flaws. But it has said there is no evidence on the basis of which the finger of suspicion could be pointed at either me or my son (for financial gains). I am spotless. My son is spotless," he said.

Stressing that he or his son had not committed any illegalities in India or abroad, he said no favour was sought for him or his son.

Singh said he was "aggrieved" with the manner in which he was served a show cause notice by his party, but said he will give a "considered answer" to it.

"I feel aggrieved that a notice was sent to me in the middle of the night. The show cause notice was announced on TV at midnight and delivered to me yesterday at 2 o'clock. I shall answer in great detail to every single point that was raised," he said.

Singh said in his "considered answer", he will give every possible detail regarding the Pathak and Volcker reports.

Asked about the three letters allegedly written by him to Iraqi authorities, Singh said he has always written letters dealing with important national and international issues.

He said he always showed the letters he wrote, before he was Minister of External Affairs as well as afterwards, to the Congress President.

Singh also said the letters, even when supposing they were written by him, did not contain the words `contracts', `oil', `coupon' or `voucher'.

He said he was not responsible for any misuse of any letter of recommendation written by him.

Singh said the Congress had decided to send a "fraternal" delegation to Iraq when the situation in that country had become desperate.

The Congress president had given him a letter of introduction addressed to then President Saddam Hussein, which he handed over Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.

Singh admitted that he had met the Iraqi oil minister but described it as a "courtesy call" which was not "more than two or three minutes".

"I briefed Sonia Gandhi in detail about the political discussions I had held in Baghdad. She is fully aware of what was discussed and what transpired," he said observing he had the "great fortune" to work "very closely" with the Congress president for eight years.

When asked if he would resign from Congress in the wake of the developments, Singh said, "No, I will not."

Singh said he was a "staunch soldier of the Congress party" and was not leaving it.

He said he was only raising issues of national importance, such as why the Pathak report did not mention the Volcker findings or carry his affidavits.

"I am a nobody. The country and the Congress leadership is bigger than me," Singh said.

To a question if he had been deserted by the parties that were earlier lending support to him on the Pathak Authority issue, Singh said the "tremendous support" he had would be evident when he spoke in Parliament on issues such as the nuclear deal, US policies against Islam, Iraq, and India's policies vis-à-vis Nepal.

On whether the Indo-US nuclear deal was against India's national interests, Singh said the Prime Minister would make a statement on the deal in Parliament, and if there was no departure from the July 18, 2005 agreement, he would be the first person to congratulate him.

Using the occasion to launch a frontal attack on the US, Natwar Singh said in the name of terror it was targeting the Muslims.

"America's war on terror is its war against the Islamic world," he charged.

He also spoke of US pressure on Iran with which India has had traditional, friendly relations for centuries.

Questioning statements made by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he indicated that by stipulating non-proliferation conditions, she was going beyond the NPT.

The annual waiver by US President was another factor, which should not be accepted by India, he emphasised.

Natwar Singh said he has written to the Prime Minister about the "misgivings" of the people and his own on the nuclear deal reached in July last year. He said Manmohan Singh had replied and he hand written back to him on the issue.

"If and when necessary, I will make my correspondence public, he said.

Pointing out that Oil-for-Food programme was started in 90s by the United States, Singh said Congress party at that time had vigorously opposed the same.

He said, "I am fully committed to have good relations with America. What is happening with Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia...US war against terrorism has become war against Islamic community?

"You are aware that what is Israel doing in Lebanon. What pressure is being put to Iran," he added.