Indian FM says ready for Iraqi oil-for-food probe
Updated: 2005-11-01 16:13
Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh said he was ready for any probe into
charges that he benefited from deals linked to the United Nations' oil-for-food
programme for Iraq.
"I have no objection to any probe," the Press Trust of India news agency
quoted Singh as telling reporters in New Delhi on Monday.
Singh's remark came as the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
called for his resignation after he was named as a non-contractual beneficiary
of four million barrels of oil allotted to a firm named Masefield AG.
In addition the Congress party, India's oldest political entity, is listed as
beneficiary of a separate allotment of four million barrels of oil as part of
Reliance Petroleum Ltd, a subsidiary of India's largest private sector group
Reliance, is also among those who benefited from allotments now under scrutiny.
"How can he continue as India's foreign minister even for a day if the UN
report mentions him as a non-contractual beneficiary for manipulated payment in
the UN oil-for-food programme," BJP spokesman Arun Jaitely told reporters in New
"Every word he speaks will be suspect and his statements on foreign affairs
will be suspect," he said.
An inquiry, headed by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, found
that Saddam Hussein's regime manipulated the programme to extract about 1.8
billion dollars in surcharges and bribes, while an inept UN headquarters failed
to exert administrative control.
According to the 500-page report, 139 companies paid illegal oil surcharges
to Baghdad and 2,253 firms gave Saddam's regime kickbacks on
humanitarian-related goods shipped to Iraq.
Singh denied any wrongdoing by him or his ruling Congress party in the
In a statement Saturday he said the allegations were aimed at discrediting
the Congress party, which had friendly ties with Baghdad until 2003 when US-led
forces toppled the Iraqi regime.
On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he stood by his foreign
minister as the facts mentioned in the report were "insufficient" to reach "any