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Prime Minister's statement on Iraq in the Lok Sabha

New Delhi
December 17, 1998

STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER IN THE LOK SABHA

We have been closely following developments relating to Iraq. India has close historical ties and strong affinities with the countries and peoples of the region. We have been deeply concerned about the sufferings of the people of Iraq, and have called for the lifting of sanctions in tandem with Iraq’s compliance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. We have consistently counseled restraint and moderation in resolving differences that have emerged from time to time in the interaction of the UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) with Iraq.

The Government of India is gravely concerned at and deplores these air strikes being carried out on Iraq by the U.S and U.K. It is particularly regrettable that this unilateral step has been undertaken at the very time when the UN Security Council was in session to discuss developments arising from the report of the Head of UNSCOM, which the UNSG had forwarded to the Council with his recommendations proposing alternative courses of action. This attack raises serious questions regarding the functioning of the collective and consultative procedures of the UN Security Council. It also undermines the ability of the Council to verify Iraq’s compliance with the relevant Council resolutions.

It has been our considered view that use of force in this situation would be counter-productive. This issue needs to be resolved diplomatically through peaceful means and dialogue. We have supported efforts by the UN in this direction. We have noted the statement of the UN Secretary General expressing deep regret at the latest development. We call for an immediate halt to the military action and a resumption of diplomatic efforts under the auspices of the UN.

The Indian community in Iraq numbering about 50 persons is safe. We have been in touch with our Embassy and are taking all measures to ensure their welfare.