M A I N   N E W S

Hurriyat rejects PMs offer for talks
Tribune News Service

Jammu, February 20
The bold initiative of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to invite the mainstream parties and separatists for a round table conference at Delhi on February 25 to hammer out a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio has suffered a setback with the Hurriyat Conference, considered as the voice of the separatist parties, today rejecting the invitation.

The suspense about participation of separatists in the historic round table conference was lifted when the conglomerate of 23 parties met this morning and decided to reject the Prime Minister's invitation. The meeting was held under the chairmanship of Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, considered a moderate among the separatist outfits.

Things were moving in this direction for the past two days when all the 23 parties of the amalgam started holding individual meetings of their organizations to debate the issue. This was perhaps for the first time that such individual meetings were held before taking decision on the vital issue. Otherwise, the general council of the Hurriyat Conference has generally decided any such matter in its own meeting.

However, this time the matter was left to the individual parties and their decision was heard today in a joint meeting of the executive council,working committee and general council of the Hurriyat.

On the other hand, a former Chief Minister and patron of the National Conference, Dr.Farooq Abdullah, has declined the PM's invitation in view of his "prior commitments". However, the party chief, Mr Omar Abdullah, has said that although he (Omar) has "serious reservations" about the round table conference but he would participate in the meeting.

With the Hurriyat Conference rejecting the Prime Minister's invite, the round table conference would now be a one-sided affair with only mainstream parties and a couple of other organizations, including the Panun Kashmir, participating in it.

The decision of the Hurriyat has raised several questions about its seriousness on finding a solution to the vexed Kashmir problem. Its leadership had so far been saying that they were waiting for an invitation from the Centre for talks, but now when the Prime Minister himself invited them they have backed out on the plea that such a meeting would "harm" the dialogue process and create confusion.


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