Tuesday, February 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Musharraf offers to meet Vajpayee

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (PTI) — Pakistan’s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has made a direct offer to meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee but maintained that the two sides could break the “logjam” and reduce tension only by addressing the Kashmir issue.

“We should meet ... I would certainly like to meet him (Vajpayee),” Gen Musharraf said in a wide-ranging interview to Karan Thapar at the Army House in Rawalpindi telecast by Doordarshan tonight.

“We ought to break the logjam, reduce tension which can be done only through a discussion, cut hysterics against each other and address issues of major concern,” he said.

He wanted both sides to simultaneously take measures to de-escalate tension. “Let us take steps together,” he said.

New Delhi has made it clear that Islamabad had to create the right atmosphere which included cessation of cross-border terrorism and stoppage of anti-India propaganda for having any meaningful dialogue.

Gen Musharraf admitted to a pointed question that Pakistanis were crossing into J and K but denied any government involvement in it.

“There are people who are joining the freedom struggle there, going through the LoC which is very porous but the government is not involved,” he said.

Virtually declining to make any commitment on no-first use of nuclear weapons against India, he said “We will take a decision when the occasion arises”.

Gen Musharraf’s remarks come close on the heels of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee asserting that India was prepared to meet any eventuality if a nuclear war was thrust on it by Pakistan.

On the possibility of a nuclear flare-up, Gen Musharraf said, “I wouldn’t say there are chances. If at all India escalates (the situation) on the Line of Control in Kashmir, there can be chances.”

Gen Musharraf sought to counter New Delhi’s accusation that Pakistan was indulging in sustained anti-India propaganda by stating that Mr Vajpayee, Home Minister L.K. Advani and Defence Minister George fernandes had made a “number of threats” against Pakistan. “It needed a lot of restraint from my side not to respond.”

About US State Department spokesman James Rubin’s remarks that some agencies of the Pakistan government were sponsoring militant outfits like Harkat-ul Mujahideen, he said, “The government’s involvement in terrorism is totally not there. This is accepted by the US.”

The “Mujahideen”, Gen Musharraf said, had their own dynamics and gave moral support to the so-called “freedom struggle” in J and K.

He admitted to the authenticity of audio tapes made public by India containing his conversation as Army Chief with his Chief of General Staff on Kargil intrusions but sought to contest New Delhi’s assertion that it proves Pakistani army’s involvement in the incursions.

“I agree with those tapes totally.” “The tapes are real but there is nothing in it whatsoever to prove or indicate Pakistan’s involvement. It was normal dialogue that was going ... about our Foreign Minister who was going to India”.

He also went on to add that the tapes presented by New Delhi were “totally doctored”.

Asked about his directive to Supreme Court judges to take fresh oath, Gen Musharraf said this was “necessitated because of internal compulsions” and that 87 per cent of the judges had abided by it.

“There is no division in the judiciary,” he said and denied that his move was aimed at preventing any verdict questioning the legitimacy of his four-month-old regime.

He also refuted reports about some Pakistani Army generals being unhappy with his style of functioning, claiming these were part of a disinformation campaign.

On India scoffing at his decision to withdraw troops from the international border, Gen Musharraf said he had withdrawn two divisions comprising 40,000 personnel from these points.Back


Remarks rubbish, says India

NEW DELHI, Feb 7 (UNI) — India today described as “rubbish” Gen Pervez Musharraf’s remarks that New Delhi was creating tension, stating that it was Pakistan that had made the South Asian region volatile by supporting terrorism and indulging in “anti-India propaganda.” Pakistan, by its armed aggression in Kargil and continuous support to cross-border terrorism, has created tension in the region, an official spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said. Pakistan military ruler had said in Karachi that “India has made it difficult to resume bilateral dialogue.” “They are unnecessarily increasing tension and hysteria. There is rhetoric,” Gen Musharaff has said. Back


Taliban no to negotiations
Hijackers free 8 more hostages

STANSTED, Feb 7 (Reuters) — Hijackers of an Afghan airliner released more passengers at a British airport today and the police said negotiations were at a critical stage.

The hijackers are believed to be demanding the release of a prominent Afghan opposition leader.

In a war of nerves, the British police said negotiations would go on for “as long as it takes”.

It supplied fresh food and water to the Boeing 727 of Afghanistan’s national airline Ariana at Stansted Airport near London.

Besides the five hostages released earlier, three more have been released, airport officials said.

“We are at a very critical stage in our negotiations,” Assistant Chief Constable John Broughton told reporters while announcing the latest passenger release.

The chief of Afghanistan’s ruling hardline Islamic Taliban movement, Mullah Mohammad Omar, blamed opposition’s Ahmad Shah Masood for the hijack.

“The hijackers are closely linked and related to Ahmad Shah Masood. They have plotted this to a specific plan and they are terrorists. We will not negotiate with them. We will not accept their demands,” he said in a statement.

The anti-Taliban opposition has denied involvement and suggested a dissident called Gula Ajha might be responsible.

The Afghan Civil Aviation authorities in Kabul said all passengers were Afghans, including 35 members of one family that was on its way to a wedding.

They said eight hijackers were in control of the plane although other reports said there were only six.

The Afghan Islamic Press, an independent news agency based in Pakistan, said the hijackers were demanding the release of Ismail Khan, a key opposition figure.

The British police vowed to talk for as long as it took to safely free the passengers and end the hijack.

But other options would not be ruled out if passenger safety were put at risk. The police also said the plane would not be allowed to take off again.

PTI adds from New Delhi: The Indian Government has strongly deplored the hijacking of the Ariana aircraft to London, stating that “we deplore terrorism in all its forms.”Back

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