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USA rejects Pak plea for mediation

Washington, February 15
As Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf wrapped up his visit to the USA, Washington rejected his plea for mediation with India and disagreed with him on his doubts that December 13 attack on Indian Parliament might not be an act of terrorism.

“The USA is always prepared to help in any way but we don’t believe this is something that mediation or facilitation is going to help,” National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice told reporters here.

“What will help is to have the two parties (India and Pakistan) decide it is time for dialogue, and we are encouraging that,” she said while briefing on President George W. Bush’s schedule on the visit to Japan, South Korea and China shortly.

Ms Rice also rejected General Musharraf’s assertion at National Press Club that Pakistan had “not got any evidence” that the attack on Indian Parliament was an act of terrorism.

“The problem we encountered with (the attack) on Indian Parliament was that a democracy, a similar democracy, was attacked in India (and it) showed to everybody that terrorism was also a threat to a stable and secular Pakistan,” she said.

Commenting on General Musharraf’s remarks, State Department spokesman Phil Reeker said the attack on Indian Parliament was an “act of terrorism” and it further reinforced the need to fight the menace throughout the world.

In his speech at the club, General Musharraf said: “The excuse that there was a terrorist attack on Parliament, of which we have not got any evidence, should not have been taken for this brinkmanship.......”

General Musharraf also said bilateralism between India and Pakistan had failed and when it did not work then mediation and facilitation was the only choice. The USA was the best country to do this job.

General Musharraf told the US Congress: “The eyes of all Pakistanis are fixed on the USA and its support.”

The Pakistan President recalled the reforms made in his country and stressed that he had “taken a number of measures” to curb extremist movements there.

He also insisted that the people of Pakistan “want peace with India” and assured members of the Congress that “there is no doubt” elections would take place in October.

In turn, members of the Congress applauded his efforts and voiced their support for Pakistan. “This committee will never forget your work,” Chairman Henry Hyde told the Pakistani President.

Meanwhile, the USA has said both India and Pakistan should enter into a bilateral dialogue and put all issues, including Kashmir, on the table so that other countries can assist them in getting a dialogue going.

Revealing that he was in touch with leaders of both India and Pakistan and had spoken to General Musharraf on February 13 and External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh yesterday, Mr Powell said he urged both countries to put all issues between them on the table, including the issue of Kashmir.

“Let’s find a way diplomatically and politically out of this crisis situation with the two forces close to one another, and once we have found a way out of this, then the USA wants to help the two sides to enter into a dialogue with each other, a dialogue where they can put all of the problems that exist between the two nations on a table and where others can assist them”, he said. An American life, he said, was not more precious than an Indian life or a Pakistani life or a Kashmir life. “That”, he said, “is part of our belief system. Kashmir has been a difficult problem for 50 years. We are in a situation where India and Pakistan have forces in close proximity to one another. PTIBack


Pak rejects India’s terms for talks
Vasantha Arora

Washington, February 15
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has virtually rejected India’s demand for the repatriation of 20 fugitive terrorists and criminals, a pre-condition set by India for holding a dialogue.

Speaking at a Nationa3l Press Club luncheon meeting here on Thursday, he said: “We don’t have those terrorists” and then added, “This is a very complicated issue. There are a lot of terrorists.

“This game has been going on between India and Pakistan for long in the past. They (India) restrict it to a few years, five or six years. But we will still like to go back to history.”

After making this apparently vague statement, President Musharraf said: “I don’t want to go into details.”

Home Minister L.K. Advani, during his January visit to the USA, listed four conditions for the resumption of a dialogue with Pakistan, which included the handing over 20 fugitives to India, whose names, along with evidence of their crimes, has been given by New Delhi to Islamabad. Many of the terrorists are Indian nationals who have taken shelter in Pakistan.

President Musharraf accused India of “insincerity” on the Kashmir issue, adding that India is indulging in “unworkable, untenable and unacceptable” proposals.

But Pakistan “sincerely and earnestly desires peace with India. And Kashmir is central to all issues concerning India and Pakistan.”

The visiting Pakistani leader again talked of US “mediation or facilitation to resolve the Kashmir dispute.”

Asked if the Bush Administration was willing to accept this, he emphasised that the USA had responded and “I know that President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell have been playing a role behind the scenes to defuse the situation and are extremely keen that we move forward on a process of dialogue on all issues, including Kashmir.”

He said there was “disharmony” between the thoughts of the people of India and their government. Without exception, the Indian people, businessmen, journalists and elite agreed with him that Kashmir was the “main dispute” and it had to be resolved.

“I hope this disharmony is removed,” he remarked.

When asked about the idea of an independent Kashmir as a solution to the 55-year-old dispute, he gave a very evasive reply but also revealed that the very same question was posed to him by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who wanted to know his views on the issue.

He outlined a four-point procedure to defuse India-Pakistan tension. It envisaged the resumption of dialogue, a “bold and courageous” acceptance of Kashmir as the “core issue,” the elimination of things unacceptable to both countries, followed by talks on a solution.

Asked to explain what made him talk of India’s plans to undertake a nuclear test, he said India recently test-fired a long-range missile and “we got the report that they may be going in for a nuclear test also.”

“I do not understand why they have to test their missile at this moment,” he said, wondering if it was “to coerce us or is it to tell the world that here is a big power that does not care about world concerns?”

He also vowed that democracy would take such strong roots through his reforms in Pakistan that it would be near impossible for any military leader to take power.

He, however, insisted that power was handed over to him and he did not seize it. He has promised to hold elections in October.

The US Congress has insisted on certain preconditions in order to endorse President Bush’s initiative to write off a $ 1 billion debt for Pakistan.

A key Congressional leader, Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spelt out four conditions on which Congress would like President Pervez Musharraf to take immediate steps to ensure that debt relief is provided.Back


Mauritius president resigns

Port Louis, February 15
President Cassam Uteem of Mauritius, whose post is largely honorary, tendered his resignation today, national radio reported.

The resignation follows Uteem’s refusal to sign into law a piece of anti-terrorism legislation, which the National Assembly had twice adopted, first on February 4 and again yesterday.

“President Cassam Uteem has tendered his resignation” to National Assembly Speaker Dev Ramnah, the radio said. AFPBack

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