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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
US presses India on Iraq
Indian soldiers
India is reluctant to send troops without a UN mandate
Senior US defence officials were in Delhi on Monday to try to persuade India to send peacekeepers to Iraq.

The Pentagon team hoped to dispel concerns about the role that Indian forces would play in supporting US-led troops in post-war Iraq.

Public opinion in India was largely against attacking Iraq, and Delhi originally said it would send troops only if the request came from the United Nations.

The issue of Iraqi peacekeeping was also raised by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, who is in Delhi for talks with Indian leaders.

He told his Indian counterpart, George Fernandes, of his "grave concern about the ramifications" of India sending soldiers to keep the peace in Iraq outside the UN umbrella.

On Sunday, India's Deputy Prime Minister, LK Advani, told the BBC that his government had not come under pressure from Washington to send troops to Iraq.

He hoped the discussions in Delhi would allow the US to address some of the concerns on the Indian side.

'Not for combat'

With no UN mandate for post-war Iraq, Delhi would rather see an international force created, similar to the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan.

Last week, US Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill told reporters that Washington was not seeking combat troops from India.

He also gave reassurances that if Delhi decided to send troops, they would not work under the US flag.

India has sent troops on UN peacekeeping operations to East Timor and Sierra Leone.

But when India sent forces without UN backing to Sri Lanka it resulted in armed conflict with Tamil Tigers and troops were withdrawn three years later.




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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"The main opposition part are strongly opposed to the despatch of troops"



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