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India ready to meet 'civilian needs' of Iraqi people

By Amit Baruah

NEW DELHI OCT. 18. India does not seem to have any immediate plan to send troops to Iraq following the passage of a new, "unanimous" United Nations Security Council resolution, but says it is ready to help meet the "civilian needs" of the Iraqi people. In response to a question on sending troops to Iraq, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman said on Friday that "any future decision in this regard will be taken keeping in mind the realities of the situation on the ground, our international responsibilities, domestic needs and security concerns."

He said New Delhi had noted the Security Council mandate for a multinational force in Iraq under a unified command as well as the immediate reaction of countries such as France, Germany and Russia (all of whom have said they will not deploy their military personnel).

The spokesman said that as far as the question of deploying Indian troops was concerned, there had been several developments since the Cabinet Committee on Security decision of July 14.

An official statement had said after the CCS meeting that "the Government of India has given a careful thought to the question of sending Indian troops to Iraq...were there to be an explicit U.N. mandate for the purpose, the Government of India could consider the deployment of our troops in Iraq."

Ministry sources told this correspondent that the "local situation" in Iraq and "domestic compulsions" were the key issues before the Government on the troops' issue. Welcoming the new U.N. Security Council resolution, the spokesman said that India saw it as a positive step towards the restoration of Iraq's sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

"We have taken a positive note of the reaffirmation in the resolution of the rights of the Iraqi people to determine their political future, and in this context the mandate to the Governing Council of Iraq to draw up a timetable and programme by December 15, 2003, for the drafting of a new Constitution and holding of democratic elections...however, the resolution lacks specificity on the timing of transfer of sovereignty."

The spokesman pointed out that the resolution envisaged the strengthening of the U.N. in areas of humanitarian assistance, economic reconstruction and in the political transition leading to the establishment of a representative Government.

"We have taken note of the appeal in the resolution to U.N. member-States to assist the Iraqi people in their efforts in the reconstruction of Iraq. In this context, we reiterate our readiness to contribute to the restoration of infrastructure, medical, health, education, communication and other civilian needs of the Iraqi people. We will therefore be participating in the International Donors Conference in Madrid later this month," he added.

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