Every American stands for liberty: US official


New Delhi : The heart of the American people stands for liberty, US Health Secretary Michael O. Leavitt told students and faculty of the Jamia Millia Islamia here Thursday when asked to comment on the situation in Iraq.

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He was responding to a Ph.D. student’s query, which veered from the US’s “hegemonistic role” in Iraq to what it was doing to “help post-traumatic disorders and diseases” in the war-ravaged nation. Despite its complicated formulation, the question received the loudest claps in the packed Ansari Auditorium in the Jamia campus.

But, three-term Utah governor had been careful to mention earlier in his talk that he would not answer queries that he was not competent to answer.

“I was told that I will get this type of question. But, I am not the US spokesperson. So, I will resist answering this question, which is an honest answer, not an evasive one,” said Leavitt.

But he added: “Inside the heart of every American is the desire for liberty.”

Stating that the important thing is for Iraq to have a “sustainable future”, for which “our president and people are working at the highest level”.

There was also another question addressed to the “humanitarian and benevolent minister” on “how the US was dealing with the killings of children in Iraq”, which also he dealt the same way.

It seemed that Leavitt had come to Jamia (“my first visit to an Islamic university”) determined to plough on the charm. Rather than confining himself behind the podium, Leavitt, a consummate politician, strode to the middle of the stage.

Then, for nearly 20 minutes, he walked and talked, trying to give a ‘personal touch’ to the proceedings, “so that you can have a glimpse into my life as I have in yours”.

He spoke about his family (“I have four brothers and my wife has four sisters”), the current status of his children and the controversy of safety of products that enter US markets.

Speaking to reporters after the function, he said the issue of greater quality control is driven by “consumers” rather than the government. But, he added that India and the US could work towards more commonality of laws.

Leavitt insisted that his visit to India did not reflect any concern over safety of Indian imports. “I want to be very clear that I have high regard for Indian products,” he said.

Besides, he noted that in his talks with Indian Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, a working group might be set up to help India establish an institute like the US’s Food and Drug Administration.