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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 November 2005, 08:14 GMT
Gandhi vows to punish oil guilty
Sonia Gandhi on the campaign trail
Sonia Gandhi says the allegation "hurt" her
India's ruling Congress party leader, Sonia Gandhi, has promised to punish anyone found guilty of benefiting from a UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

India's former foreign minister Natwar Singh and the Congress party have been both named in a UN report into the scandal. Both deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Singh stepped aside as India's foreign minister after the government announced a probe into the allegations.

Ms Gandhi rejected a suggestion that she was "protecting" Mr Singh.

"Obviously, we are waiting for the results of the inquiry. Action will be taken if something comes out against any individual if he has indulged in some activities," Ms Gandhi was quoted saying by the Press Trust of India in answer to a question at a newspaper conclave in Delhi.

We can no longer look the other way when such things take place
Sonia Gandhi

"I hope that they (probe) will come out with the truth in the shortest possible time. Any individual found not innocent, action will be taken...We can no longer look the other way when such things take place," she said.

Ms Gandhi was quoted by the Associated Press as saying that the allegations were a "very serious issue".

"It is an issue that I must confess hurt me. Not only that, it made me extremely angry," she said.

The Indian government has said that a retired Supreme Court judge will head the judicial inquiry into the allegations.

Casualty

Natwar Singh is the first political casualty of a UN report, published recently and written by the former US Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker.

It said more than 2,000 firms made illegal payments to Saddam Hussein's government

Under the UN programme, Saddam Hussein's government could sell oil as long as the proceeds were used to buy humanitarian goods.

Natwar Singh has said he was innocent and ready to face any investigation.

"The Congress Party and I are not afraid of any probe," he told reporters recently.




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