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Outraged by what he termed as baseless and untrue allegations in a United Nations report which named him as one of the beneficiaries in Iraqi oil sales in 2001 under the Oil-for-Food programme, External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh on Saturday said this was part of the campaign to malign the Congress party and its senior leaders.
"I am deeply shocked and outraged by these allegations which are baseless and untrue," Singh said in a statement from Frankfurt before leaving for Delhi at the end of his four-day visit to Moscow [Images].
The minister said he had seen media report which quoted the Volcker report on the Iraq's Oil-for-Food programme as having listed his name as one of the beneficiaries along that of the Congress party, in its annexure.
"My record in public life for the past 50 years and more has been an open book. My personal integrity has never been questioned. I will, of course, examine the report in detail on my return and meet the prime minister and the Congress President," he said.
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Natwar, who will reach New Delhi on Saturday night, said, "This is obviously part of the continuing campaign to malign the Congress party and its senior leaders ad functionaries."
The Congress party also dismissed the allegations made in the UN-ordered inquiry report that it was a non-contractual beneficiary of Iraqi oil sales in 2001 under the UN Oil-for-Food programme, as false and baseless.
"I categorically state that the reports are false and baseless. We consider it an attempt to sully the fair name of the Indian National Congress," party general secretary Ambika Soni said in New Delhi.
Asserting that the party was in no way connected with the issue, she recalled that the Congress was not in power at the Centre between 1996 and 2003 when the deal was executed.
"We are determined to take whatever steps necessary to safeguard the name, image and reputation of the party," she said.
The fifth and final report of the Independent Inquiry Committee was appointed by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in April, 2004, known as Volcker Commitee, to investigate the administration and management of the programme.
On the report naming Natwar, Soni said she was only authorised to speak on behalf of the party and as far as individuals were concerned, they were competent to defend themselves.
In a guarded reaction, the Left parties denied that the report would have any impact on the political scenario in the country.
While Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat said his party would issue a statement only after ascertaining all facts, Communist Party of India General Secretary A B Bardhan was more forthcoming and said, "Big criminals are trying to fix small criminals."
Mr Bardhan said, "Unless there is incriminating evidence, the allegation cannot have much of an impact on the current Indian political scene."
But Revolutionary Socialist Party leader Abani Roy insisted that investigations should be carried out against all companies named in the report, whether Indian or foreign.
"We have no sympathy for those who defame the country," he said.
CPI(M) senior leader Dipankar Mukherjee said nearly 2,000 companies had been named as the beneficiaries in the report and it would be improper to put any particular Indian company in the dock.
"One thing is certain that in this era of liberalisation, corruption is a component of the system itself," he said.
Mr Bardhan said it was now for the United Nations to take further action on the report.
Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party demanded Natwar's resignation, saying that he cannot continue 'even for a moment' after this serious revelation.
Addressing a press conference, party general secretary Arun Jaitely also demanded that Congress give a candid statement on the issue and the government set in motion an investigation to find out the truth in the entire episode.
Alleging that the recipients of the fund tried to manage political and diplomatic environment in the country, he said, "India's national interest dictates that lobbies cannot represent its interests. How can he (Natwar Singh) 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 UN Food-for-Oil programme."
"Every word he speaks will be suspect and his statements on Foreign Affairs will be suspect. A person who can be compromised by X can be compromised by Y," he added.
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