Indian Consul General in Saudi Arabia faces heat over website

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New Delhi, Apr 2 (UNI) The Government today asserted that it will ascertain the facts about an advertisement on sale of controversial author Salman Rushdie's books, including Satanic Verses, posted on a website of India's Consul General in Saudi Arabia Ausaf Sayeed.

''We will ascertain the facts,'' External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told journalists after inaugurating the annual Haj conference here.

As the Minister concluded his speech at the Conference, a delegate rose on his feet, displaying a Hindi daily which had carried out a story today on the personal website of the Consul General -- www.ausafsayeed.com -- alleging that it was selling Mr Rushdie's books online.

This led to a commotion in the auditorium with other delegates joining in to seek the resignation of the Consul General.

Denying the allegations, Mr Sayeed told UNI that he had no knowledge about the advertisement or any association with the controversial author. ''I have nothing to do with Mr Rushdie or his ghost,'' he added.

The Consul General said it was a ploy to ''sabotage'' the annual Haj Conference.

''This is a ploy to create disturbance in the Conference.

It is also an attempt to cast aspersions and tarnish the image of key personalities associated with the Haj Conference.'' He said the website was on a free server and as such had no control over it.

''The subject is open to scrutiny. Anybody can access my website and see the contents,'' Mr Sayeed added.

UNI AG RL PM1448

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