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Indian PM forced to set up telecoms inquiry

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has given in to opposition demands for a parliamentary inquiry into a multibillion-dollar scandal over sales of telecoms licences for kickbacks, in a setback for his embattled government.

Mr Singh, wary that a parliamentary inquiry could drag on for months and overshadow his Congress Party-led coalition, bowed to pressure yesterday after months of opposition protests stalled the last parliamentary session and threatened to block the passage of the budget on 28 February. "Our country can ill afford a situation where parliament is paralysed," Mr Singh told parliament.

Yesterday The Hindu newspaper called the scandal, in which the state auditor said up to $39bn (£24bn) was lost in revenues, "the biggest scam in the history of India".