updated 4/12/2004 11:57:17 AM ET 2004-04-12T15:57:17

India will not deploy peacekeeping troops in Iraq without a mandate from the United Nations because the situation there is “not favorable,” a senior government minister said Monday.

With his comments, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh shot down last week’s statements by the U.S. State Department that India and Bangladesh were among several countries keeping an open mind about sending troops to Iraq after its sovereignty is restored June 30.

On Sunday, Bangladesh said it would consider sending peacekeeping troops to Iraq, but only if a sovereign government in Baghdad asked for them through the United Nations.

India turned down a U.S. request to send soldiers to Iraq last year, and Singh said he was not optimistic that any change in the Iraq situation would prompt New Delhi to review that decision.

“There is no question of sending our troops,” said Singh, a former foreign minister. “The situation within Iraq is not favorable.

“Also, the absence of a U.N. mandate in this respect stands as one of the major reasons for not sending Indian troops to that country.”

Singh made his comments while campaigning for parliamentary elections in western India.

The U.S.-led war to oust Saddam Hussein was unpopular in India, and the government sponsored a parliamentary resolution condemning it.

Earlier Monday, India’s army chief said any decision on sending troops was unlikely before a new government was formed after national elections, which are staggered across several days between April 20 and May 10.

“This is election time. I don’t think one can talk about that,” Gen. Nirmal Chander Vij said. “After the elections are over, the new government will be there ... and they will take a decision.”

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