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Natwar may resign before probe is called

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
November 06, 2005 19:47 IST
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The congress party, which has been vehemently denying any wrong-doing on the part of Natwar Singh, is now preparing to get the external affairs minister to resign from his post before ordering a probe either by a retired supreme court judge or any other mode.

"If the probe is eventually ordered, then he has to go," a senior congress leader associated with handling the media told over phone on Sunday afternoon.

Disclosures of H S Mezi, an NRI businessman, who was carrying out oil transactions with the Iraqi government, has embarrassed the Congress leadership, particularly when he dragged in party president Sonia Gandhi's name and said that Natwar carried a letter from her to Saddam Hussein during his meeting with the former Iraqi President.

"Who is this Mezi," Natwar quipped, when asked if he knew the businessmen.

Though Natwar has been maintaining that he did not do anything wrong and had not received money in the Oil-for-Food programme, congressmen have not been backing him to the hilt.

"We have gone through the copy of the letter that was handed over by Natwar to President Saddam Hussein during his meeting. Sonia's letter consisted only greetings and the offer of support to the Iraqi people," said a senior congressman.

Natwar was then the chairman of the party's external cell.

When asked if the Congress intended to release the letter, he said the party would do that at an appropriate stage.

Pressure is mounting on Natwar Singh to quit the government particularly after Jai Prakash Yadav, minister of state for water resources was forced to quit the union cabinet after non-bailable warrants were issued against him by a Bihar court for forcibly getting his brother released from the police custody.

Natwar blames his rivals within the congress party for kicking up the row.

However, he has found support from the communist parties who think that the Volcker report should be dismissed with the contempt that it deserves as done by Russia and other countries.

Complete Coverage: The Volcker Report

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi