Indian Foreign Minister resigns over Iraq report
Updated: 2005-11-08 09:00
Indian Foreign Minister Natwar Singh resigned his post on Monday, becoming
the first political casualty of an independent report into irregularities in the
United Nations' oil-for-food programme for Iraq.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will take over his duties, a spokesman for the
prime minister said. Natwar Singh will remain in the cabinet pending the outcome
of inquiries, spokesman Sanjaya Baru said.
Former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker said after a year-long
investigation that politicians benefitted from the $64 billion oil-for-food
programme for Iraq.
Both Natwar Singh and the Congress party were named in an annexe to the
report detailing beneficiaries of oil allocations made by the government of
former president Saddam Hussein.
While the report did not ascribe any motives for the allocations, witnesses
in other similar transactions said politicians had been rewarded for backing the
Iraqi government or an end to U.N. sanctions.
Singh has denied any wrongdoing and any involvement in oil deals with Iraq. A
government statement said he asked the prime minister to relieve him of his
Analysts do not see an
immediate threat to the coalition government, led by the Congress party.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) and
Foreign Minister Natwar Singh (L) watch during the ceremonial reception
for visiting Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus at the Presidential
Palace in New Delhi.[AFP]
"I would think that probably this decision for Natwar Singh to step aside for
a while is probably one of the quickest responses for any of the people on the
(Volcker) list," Dr. Gareth Price, the head of the Asia Department of the Royal
Institute of International Affairs, said in London.
"He is not going to threaten to bring down the government or anything like
this if he is asked to step down briefly."
Others say the government's image has been marred by Singh staying in the
"This is not at all acceptable. He should quit," political commentator Kuldip
Nayar said. "He still remains a member of government and this is a wrong
"The Congress is also in the dock and should face this crisis squarely and
with much more transparency," he added.