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    Amitabh wants request from Manmohan on Iraq kidnapping

    [Interview by Subhash K. Jha]
    Tuesday, August 10, 2004
    Cine star Amitabh Bachchan has said either Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh should make an official request for his intervention in the hostage crisis in Iraq.

    As the hostage crisis reached its 19th day Monday with reports that an appeal from Bollywood stars like Bachchan, Dharmendra or Asha Parekh would get the three Indians their freedom, the Hindi film icon said he would consider it a privilege if his words helped.

    Amid talks that seem to be going nowhere, Bachchan said he would do anything he was required to do to free the three Indian hostages who were kidnapped with four others in Iraq on July 21.

    In an interview with IANS, Bachchan said he would willingly come forward to help in the crisis if there was an official request.

    There're conflicting reports. In one interview, you're quoted as saying you'll have nothing to do with this situation.

    (interrupts) I never said that. I never can say that. I love my country and if I am asked to help in any crisis I'd willingly come forward. But there has been no request from any official quarter.

    The hostage crisis is a grave political issue. I don't understand its nitty-gritty. It's being managed by the government. Even now it seems quite improbable to me that such a request (asking for my intervention) should come. All I've heard so far is only from the media. As a responsible citizen of India, if I'm asked to intervene I'd happily do so. I'd even give my life for my country. But I don't want to do anything that could jeopardize the whole procedure.

    Why should that happen?

    No, my intervention could be misconstrued since I am not really aware of all the issues involved in the crisis. The government is doing its job well. For me to get into the situation could be detrimental to the negotiations. Let there be an official request and I'll immediately do it.

    It seems a huge responsibility for any individual to actually have the power to defuse such a huge crisis.

    That's why I think it's a little improbable that my intervention would be asked for. However, even if there's an iota of truth to it, I'm willing to do anything for my country.

    You and Asha Parekh have been mentioned?

    Yes, obviously because we've been around much longer and our films have been seen for a large number of years. So I suppose that makes an impact.

    Yes, but there are actors who have been longer than you. Surely this is about stardom and not longevity?

    Fair enough, if you say so. If my word counts, then I'm willing to make any number of appeals. I'll do anything that I'm required to do. But first there has to an official request from the government. So far, only the media has communicated with me. There were five vans of TV crews parked outside my home yesterday.

    Would you talk to the terrorists on television?

    Since I've never done this before, I don't know what the procedure is. Whatever it is I'm ready to abide by it. But someone should tell me what to do. 'Yeh koi gulli-danda to hai nahin' (This is not a game). This is a very serious matter and requires very responsible conduct. Nothing is more valuable than the good of the country.

    What message do you have for the hostages?

    It's a very ugly situation, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I can't comment on the situation because I'm not equipped for it. On a humanitarian level, I wish for our people who've been taken been hostage to be freed. They should be allowed to go home to their anxious families.

    And how wonderful if your words facilitated this resolution.

    If my words help, I'd consider it a privilege. Either the prime minister or the minister of external affairs should make an official request for my intervention. The request should be official.

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