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Avoid war with Iraq, Vajpayee tells superpowers

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, and the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, at the inaugural function of the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Express Highway in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. — PTI

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, and the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, at the inaugural function of the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Express Highway in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. — PTI  

AHMEDABAD JAN. 28. The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has advised the superpowers to avoid war with Iraq and resolve the issue through negotiation. Asking the superpowers to show "great restraint", Mr. Vajpayee said a war in the Persian Gulf would disturb the balance there. All efforts should be made to avoid a conflict and solve the dispute through negotiation with the mediation of the United Nations. Most European nations and also the Iraqi people did not want war. He was not aware if the superpowers were thinking on these lines but at times there was a need for a "mahashakti" (super power) to show "mahasanyam" (great patience).

Without naming the United States, he said war clouds were hovering over Iraq but India always believed that war was not a way to solve any dispute. "It is time the superpower showed some restraint and sought U.N. mediation to resolve the dispute." He cautioned that a war could push up the prices of petrol and petroleum products as India received a bulk of its supply from the Gulf countries.

Mr. Vajpayee was speaking after dedicating to the nation the first phase of the Ahmedabad-Vadodara express highway. This would eventually form part of his dream `Golden Quadrilateral', which would connect the four metro cities. The Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, the Gujarat Governor, Sunder Singh Bhandari, the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, and the Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, B.C. Khanduri, were present.

Mr. Vajpayee referred to Iraq while talking about the expected reduction in the consumption of petrol once the project was completed. Each arm of the quadrangle was expected to help reduce petrol consumption by about Rs. 8,000 crores a year. The country imported petroleum products worth Rs. 90,000 crores every year.

Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani regretted that not much attention had been paid after Independence to the development of roads, which was key for progress. India had the potential to be counted among the most developed countries and the world was surprised that this had not happened. The development of roads was not a political issue but the backbone of progress.

Saying that his Government was keen on creating a network of roads all over the country, Mr. Vajpayee said speedy transportation could help in the export of raw products to European countries, which would help improve village economy and ensure progress. The road from Kanyakumari to Kashmir would come as a boost to the unity and integrity of the country as people from the south would be able to reach Kashmir "without any stop".

Mr. Advani expressed confidence that Mr. Vajpayee's dream projects — the road network and the inter-linking of rivers, for which a task force under a former Union Minister, Suresh Prabhu, had already been appointed — would help change the face of the country.

Mr. Vajpayee avoided any promise to Mr. Modi, who during his earlier remarks wanted the Centre to allocate funds under the `Prime Minister's village road scheme' to Gujarat for the upgradation of the village approach roads.

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