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December 26, 1999
India awaits UN report before deciding course of action
Tara Shankar Sahay in Delhi
The Union Cabinet this evening resolved to ask the Indian representative at the United Nations to find out what the UN delegation in Kandahar had discussed with Taleban ministers on Sunday to end the hijacking of Flight 814.
Top government sources said the Cabinet meeting presided by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee took stock of the situation and said it would assess the UN delegation's report before drafting a course of action.
The sources reiterated that the prime minister had ruled out any compromise with the hijackers that entailed the release from captivity of Maulana Masood Azhar, the Harkat-ul Ansar secretary general, and two of his colleagues.
Officials emphasised that the government is not in favour of taking any precipitate steps that could aggravate India's security concerns. "This is why the prime minister during his meeting with the relatives of the passengers ruled out any compromises with the hijackers." they pointed out.
India will also seek a report on how the hostages of Flight 814 are faring from the UN representative to Afghanistan, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh said on Sunday night.
Briefing reporters in New Delhi after a one-and-a-half hour Cabinet meeting, the first since the incident, he said United Nations representative Erik de Mul, who is based in Islamabad, had visited the aircraft in Kandahar. He is expected back in Islamabad late on Sunday night.
He would be in touch with India's permanent representative at the UN for evaluation and assessment of the situation, Singh said.
The foreign affairs minister said the UN role in the affair would not be 'mediatory or negotiatory', but was limited to just human rights.
Singh said Prime Minister Vajpayee had apprised the Cabinet of the latest developments. So far, only the Cabinet Committee on Security is dealing with the situation.
He declined comment on the report that the aircraft was refuelled and ready for take-off from Kandahar. All he would say was that the government is keeping a 'close watch' on the situation.
Meanwhile, police sources said that Harkat-ul-Ansar leader Maulana Masood Azhar, whom the hijackers want released, entered India through Bangladesh with a Portuguese passport, posing as a journalist. He managed to reach Srinagar, where the Jammu and Kashmir police arrested him. He was first lodged in the Srinagar jail. Later, he was shifted to the Kot Balwal high-security prison, specially made for hardcore terrorists, on the outskirts of Jammu. He is now believed to be in the Tihar jail.
Additional reportage: UNI
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