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Thursday, September 10, 1998
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Clinton, Sharif discuss Kashmir issue

ISLAMABAD, Sept 9 (PTI) — The US President Mr Bill Clinton and the Pakistan Prime Minister Mr Nawaz Sharif, discussed the Kashmir issue, peace and security in South Asia when the former called him on the telephone last night.

Mr Clinton discussed the situation in South Asia in the light of the latest developments in the region, a Foreign Ministry statement said today.

White House spokesman Michael McCurry had last night said that Mr Clinton discussed national security, nuclear proliferation and Kashmir with Mr Sharif following discussions between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Pakistani leaders.

The two leaders discussed economic situation in the region, non-proliferation matters, peace and security and Kashmir, which has been described by the P-5 and G-8 groupings as the root cause of the conflict in the region, the Pakistani statement said.

Mr Clinton also told the Pakistan Prime Minister that he was looking forward to meeting him during his (Sharif’s) New York visit later this month for addressing the UN General Assembly session, the statement said.

The USA has been seeking to persuade India and Pakistan to sign the CTBT since New Delhi and then Islamabad staged nuclear tests in May.

Faced with growing economic crisis due to the US sanctions, Pakistan has decided to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the government is going ahead to take a final nod from Parliament, a local newspaper reported today.

The government is summoning a joint session of Parliament on Friday to discuss and get its approval on the issue, leading English daily The Nation said, claiming the decision in this regard was taken before Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif left for London last night.

The paper also quoted a senior government official as saying that "now it is not the question of if, but a question of when" to sign the CTBT as the "decision to sign the treaty has been made."

He, however, said the government was apprehensive about a possible public backlash following clear warnings by religious parties, mainly the Jamaat-e-Islami against signing the treaty.

Interestingly, US President Bill Clinton also spoke to Mr Sharif over the telephone yesterday and discussed such issues like the nuclear proliferation, according to reports from Washington.

The US imposed sanctions against Pakistan after Islamabad conducted nuclear tests in retaliation to Pokhran explosions in May.

Washington has been pressurising Pakistan to sign the treaty as early as possible and as per an earlier report the US authorities, who have already held four rounds of discussions with Pakistani officials since the nuclear blasts, had given Islamabad a deadline until September first week.

In fact, the government’s decision to take the issue of CTBT to Parliament for discussion was taken at a Cabinet meeting held on Monday and was part of its plan to sign it, The Nation said.

Apparently, the government decided to go to Parliament knowing full well that it had nearly two-thirds of majority in a joint session.

Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has also supported the idea of Pakistan signing the treaty.

The Sharif government, which has been insisting on signing it only after India signed the CTBT, has also declared that it had delinked the issue from the Indian stand and would take a decision considering its own national interest.

"The Nation" also quoted the official as saying that a strategic review, which Pakistan conducted in the wake of nuclear explosions, concluded that Pakistan had no strategic need to conduct more nuclear explosions — the only prohibition that the CTBT imposes on its signatory.

Pakistan’s shift in stand is attributed to severe economic crisis it is faced with in the wake of US economic sanctions. The country is already on the verge of a default of its international debt repayment obligations as the IMF has stopped loan repayments following pressures from the USA.

The USA has promised to support Pakistan for getting IMF loans and already four rounds of negotiations have been held with another round due for this month, provided Islamabad signed the treaty.back


Pak to raise J&K issue at UN

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 9 (PTI) — Encouraged by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan listing Kashmir as one of the causes of concern worldwide, Pakistan plans to raise the issue on all possible occasions during the 53rd session of the General Assembly which opens tonight.

The issue is likely to be raised during the session of the assembly and its committees, Pakistani sources said.

Pakistan had also welcomed South African President Nelson Mandela’s reference to the issue at the recent NAM summit.

Last year Mr Annan had not mentioned the Kashmir issue directly in his report and had only said the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOG) continues to perform its functions.

Among the other issues likely to dominate the session are, ongoing conflicts, peace and security issues, economic crisis in east Asia and other developing nations, UN reforms and the Security Council and financial crisis facing the world body.

The session will begin with a silent prayer followed by the election of the Foreign Minister of Uruguay, Dr Didier Opertti Badan as the president.

President Bill Clinton is expected to open the two-week general debate on September 21 during which world leaders give their assessment and put forward their viewpoints.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is scheduled to speak on September 24 after his Pakistani counterpart, Mr Nawaz Sharif gives his presentation the previous day.

Just before the general debate, the assembly will hold a two-day ministerial level meeting on September 17 and 18 on the effects of globalisation, in the light of reports and studies that it is marginalising large populations and needs to be managed.

The 185-member House has a 185-member agenda but the assembly does not discuss most issues which are delegated to various committees.back


Sharif rushes to London

ISLAMABAD, Sept 9 (PTI) — In a sudden development, Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif airdashed to London late last night amid speculations that he would hold discussions with several leaders in connection with the growing political and economic crisis back home.

Mr Sharif, accompanied by his Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz and personal staff, left for London around midnight. Media reports here said the Prime Minister could seek financial assistance to cope with growing economic crisis in the country and an imminent default by Pakistan on its international debt repayment obligations.back

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