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Natwar lashes out at 'weak' Prime Minister

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Aug 9: Barely a day after he was suspended from the Congress, a belligerent K Natwar Singh today lashed out at Dr Manmohan Singh describing him as ''a weak Prime Minister with no backbone''and said he might even take him to court over the Justice Pathak report.

''It gives me no pleasure to say that he is a weak Prime Minister, who is unable to stand for his colleagues,'' Mr Singh told CNN-IBN in an interview.

Though he refused to speak about Congress President Sonia Gandhi, the former External Affairs Minister said if his lawyer agreed, he could be slapping cases against the Prime Minister, Justice Pathak as well as two Union Ministers who allegedly ganged up against him during the inquiry.

''I will ask my lawyer and proceed,'' he said on being asked whether he would file a case against the Prime Minister.

Mr Singh, who was indicted by Justice Pathak for ''misusing'' his position as a leader of the Congress to recommend ''a certain individual and his company'' to the Iraqi authorities for oil contracts, said he had been ''let down'' by the Congress, which suspended him as well as serve a show cause notice why he should not be expelled from the party.

''I feel let down, deeply disappointed, bitter and hurt that my party decided to do this to me without listening to me,'' he said.

Mr Singh, who had resigned in December last year following disclosure in the UN report of former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker into the oil-for-food scam in Iraq, singled out the Prime Minister for not standing up for him during his troubled times.

''I have worked with him for 40 years. He knew nothing about foreign policy and I helped him in whatever way I could,'' Mr Singh said. ''But today when I am in difficulty, he doesn't have the courage to stand up in my favour.'' He, however, said he would not speak a word about Ms Gandhi because of his reverence to Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. ''I will not say a single word about Sonia Gandhi,'' he said.

Justice Pathak, who conducted the probe into the alleged involvement of Mr Singh, his son Jagat and his friend Andaleeb Sehgal besides the Congress party, too came for sharp attack from the diplomat-turned-politician. ''It is a totally biased report by a gentleman who hung around me to seek help to get into the International Court of Justice at the Hague," he said in a personal attack on Justice Pathak.

He also attacked Finance Minister P Chidambaram for ''misleading'' him about the course of the probe and said he wrote to the Prime Minister and Ms Gandhi about it.

''Mr Chidambaram told me that the inquiry would be over in two weeks and if I went to the Enforcement Directorate, everything will be finished soon,'' he said about a meeting with the Finance Minister that took place in the first week of February.

Mr Singh alleged that two Union Ministers selected the counsel for the Justice Pathak Inquiry Authority, but declined to identify them.

Asked if these ministers were Mr Chidambaram and Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, he said: ''I will not say anything, you come to your own conclusions.'' Mr Singh said the three letters (cited by the inquiry panel) alleged to have been written by him were ''cut and paste job''.

He said his letter of January 30, 2001 addressed to the Iraqi Oil Minister did have his signature but the content and the language were not his.

Mr Singh said the three letters did not have any reference to oil, coupon, voucher or contract. "Is writing a letter in any way incriminating?" he asked.

When the interviewer pointed out "anything they did for Andaleep Sehgal is for you," he retorted, "Why should they oblige me?" He said Andaleep Sehgal, the cousin of his son Jagat Singh, went to Iraq for a food and not oil deal. Justice Pathak had "deliberately" overlooked the affidavits and statements filed by himself and Sehgal, he added.


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