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Natwar stripped of portfolio

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: November 07, 2005 19:08 IST
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Natwar Singh has been stripped of the external affairs ministry and made a minister without a portfolio in the United Progressive Alliance government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The decision followed Natwar Singh's hour-and-a-half-long meeting with Dr Singh. Finance Minister P Chidamabaram was also present at the meeting.

"Yes, it is true that Natwar Singh has been made a minister without a portfolio," Dr Sanjay Baru, media advisor to the prime minister, told on phone.

The external affairs ministry will now be held by Dr Singh.

Natwar Singh after his meeting with the prime minister waved to the waiting newsmen and drove to his residence without stopping for a comment. Natwar had been putting up a defiant stand on the Volcker report and had dubbed it as a pack of lies.

"I have done nothing wrong. Why should I resign?" Natwar had told newsmen on Sunday after an earlier meeting with Dr Singh.

There was speculation that he would step down since morning after the government announced two separate probes -- one by former diplomat Virendra Dayal -- a former under-secretary general in the United Nations, who worked with Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali, former general secretary of the United Nations -- and the other headed by Justice R S Pathak, former chief justice of India who had also served as a judge on the International Court of Justice.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi held a meeting with her top advisors including Ambika Soni, Ahmed Patel and others. It was at this meeting that it was decided that Natwar Singh should be asked to resign and if he did not oblige made a minister without a porfolio.

"Minister of External Affairs Natwar Singh Monday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and requested to be relieved of the External Affairs portfolio.

"The prime minister has accepted his request and has written to the President that Natwar Singh will be minister without portfolio in the Union Council of Ministers," a press release issued by the prime minister's office said.

With PTI inputs

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi