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Hands off Iraq !
By Jeelani Khan

Distinguished intellectuals, diplomats and politicians 
caution the US

The US plan to attack Iraq is neither to thwart the danger of terrorism, nor to improve the lives of the people of this Arab country. It is purely for the benefit of the US and its ally Britain.

These were the views expressed by politicians, journalists, academics and bureaucrats, who were speaking at a national seminar at the India International Centre in New Delhi on October 3. This seminar, "Iraq in perspective and India", was jointly organised by the Association of Indian Africanists and Institute of Objective Studies.

Romesh Bhandari, former Governor of Uttar Pradesh and chief guest, said, "the US is behaving like the master of the world, which is a matter of grave concern. It is time the world leaders came forward and prevented it from destroying Iraq which has already been suffering for almost ten years due to the unethical embargo imposed on it".

Echoing him,Chaturanan Mishra, former Union minister asked, "Who has given the US authority to speak on behalf of the world regarding the danger of terrorism". If Iraq deserved to be punished for supporting terrorists, then why not Pakistan,and even the US and the British, whose support to the various organisations engaged in this act was well known, he wondered.

Salah Al-Mukhtar, the Iraqi ambassador, rejected all charges labelled against his country by the US as baseless. He said , "the only reason for the US attack on Iraq is to take control of our oil resources, so that it could impose its will on the world and dictate terms".

Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The UN arms inspection team destroyed all Iraqi weapons, the ambassador said. He elaborated on the steps taken by his government to facilitate arms inspection. He accused the US of pressurising the arms inspection team not to submit its report to the UN after completing work in Iraq. He said disappointedly, "if that had been done, then there was no question of embargo on Iraq and millions of lives, particularly of children, who died due to lack of medicine, could have been saved".

"We will be the last to engage ourselves in any type of war, but if it is imposed on us we will be the first to retaliate with all our power", he declared.

Other prominent persons who spoke on the occasion included Sumit Chakravarty, editor, Mainstream, Prof. Romesh Chandra, former chairman ,World Peace Council, and Dr. A K Pasha, director, Gulf Studies, School of International Studies, JNU.

The Indian speakers invariably criticised the NDA government for being silent on the Iraq issue. They were of the view that India must use its good offices to convince the US not to invade Iraq.

A good number of diplomats from Arab and European countries were also present at the seminar.

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