New Delhi: Congress on Tuesday distanced itself from senior party leader Digvijay Singh's controversial remarks about the sea burial given to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by the US.

"We disapprove of it," a top party functionary, who declined to be named said after Congress President Sonia Gandhi had a meeting with party leaders including Singh.

Singh had on Monday said, "However big a criminal might be, his religious traditions should be respected during his buruial ", when asked about Laden's burial at sea.

A senior Congress leader speaking on the condition of anonymity, however, questioned Singh's contention, remarking sarcastically, "Was Osama engaged in some noble work?"

The leader said, "Singh speaks unnecessary things many times. It is not good to promote personal constituency always. It does not succeed. Muslims do not get pleased by such things. Such statements are taken as communal. It is not good to go out and speak on every issue."

The party had given an indication of its disppproval of Singh's remarks earlier during the day when its spokesman Manish Tewari parried questions on whether Singh's statement on Laden's burial is the official party view.

"On the question of Laden and terror per se, we have repeatedly cleared our position.

"The position of Congress has been very clearly articulated .We have nothing further to say on the articulation (of the party) on the neutralization of Laden after what we said yesterday," he said.

Tewari said, "If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind", adding that he was making this observation in relation to all terrorists and terrorist organizations.

The US has maintained that the body was handled in accordance with Islamic practices and tradition. The burial at sea was apparently due to fears that his land burial may become a site to attract his followers. However, some Islamic organisations have said that it was not appropriate.

Singh, however, dismissed as "absolutely rubbish" reports that he was summoned by Sonia Gandhi in the wake of his statement on the sea burial of Laden. He said he had gone to Gandhi's official residence at 10 Janpath for a meeting in which many senior leaders including Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Suresh Pachauri were also present.

"My statement was not discussed. It is absolutely rubbish," he said. PTI

Noting that his statement should not be interpreted as something against or for Osama, Singh said, "I had merely said that the even the worst of criminals should be cremated according to their faith".

"He (Osama) is a terrorist and he deserved the treatment that he got", Singh said, adding that no one in the party had asked him to explain his statement nor anyone had summoned him.

(Agencies)