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Iraq sought ``surcharge'' for supplying crude oil: Ram Naik

But we refused to pay anything extra, says the former minister


  • Iraqi oil was sold at $1-2 a barrel lower than the international price
  • Iraqi officials wanted a part of the benefit accruing to the buyer to be paid in cash

    NEW DELHI: Amid a raging political controversy over alleged pay-offs to External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh and the Congress during the Saddam Hussein regime, the Petroleum Minister in the previous NDA Government, Ram Naik, said on Saturday senior Iraqi officials had sought a ``surcharge'' for supplying crude oil to India under the U.N. food-for-oil programme in 2002.

    A top Iraqi official had indicated to the previous government that Baghdad would supply additional crude oil to the state-owned Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) if New Delhi agreed to deposit 30-50 cents per barrel, over and above the U.N.-dictated price for the Basra light crude oil into an Iraqi account, he said.

    "They had indirectly told us of the surcharge when I visited Baghdad in July 2002... We believe in transparency in payments and so we refused to pay anything over and above the official selling price,'' Mr. Naik told PTI in a telephone interview from Mumbai.

    The surcharge was also mentioned when the then Iraqi Oil Minister had paid a visit to India a few months before Mr. Naik's meeting with Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.

    Mr. Naik, who was the last Indian Minister to see Saddam Hussein before he was overthrown by the U.S. forces, said that under the U.N.-sponsored programme, Iraqi oil was sold at $ 1-2 a barrel lower than the prevailing international price for the same grade of crude.

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