M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee refutes Musharraf’s claims
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 26
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said today that the failure of his Agra summit with President Pervez Musharraf was because of the General’s insistence that the bloodshed in Jammu and Kashmir was “nothing but the people’s battle for freedom”.

Mr Vajpayee, who rejected Mr Musharraf’s remarks in his book that both felt insulted in Agra, insisted that the then NDA government believed that there could be no normalcy in ties between India and Pakistan until cross-border terrorism, which had cost thousands of innocent lives, was ended.

“I am still to see the book (In the Line of Fire), but his reported comments on the failure of our talks at Agra have surprised me. No one insulted the General and certainly no one insulted me,” the former Prime Minister said in a statement here.

Mr Vajpayee recalled his bus journey to Lahore to meet the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, a trip he said was aimed at thrashing out terrorism and other issues in person.

“That trip was appreciated by all, but it yielded no results,” he said as he recalled his government's invitation to Mr Musharraf after the change in the Pakistani establishment.

“General Musharraf readily accepted our invitation and came to Delhi. But at Agra, during our talks, he took a stand that the violence that was taking place in Jammu and Kashmir could not be described as ‘terrorism’. He continued to claim that the bloodshed in the state was nothing but the people's battle for freedom,” Mr Vajpayee said.

“It was this stand of General Musharraf that India just could not accept and this was responsible for the failure of the Agra summit,” he added.

Also, Mr Vajpayee cited his 2004 joint statement with the Pakistani President in which the General promised not to allow Pakistani territory to be used for terror activities against India.

“Pakistan came to our viewpoint when, in the joint statement of January 2004, it agreed that Pakistan government would not allow Pakistan or any land in its control to be used for purposes of terrorism,” he said.



Bin Laden alive: Taliban

Dubai, September 26
Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is alive and well, a source in Afghanistan’s militant Taliban movement told Al-Arabiya news channel today, denying recent reports of his death or illness.

“The (Taliban) movement has checked the reports (of Bin Laden’s death). The story is false. Bin Laden is alive,” an unnamed official in the movement told the channel’s office in Islamabad.

The Dubai-based station said that the source, who phoned it’s Pakistan office, denied previous reports claiming that the US’ most-wanted man was ill.

A French intelligence memo, first published Saturday in a French newspaper, claimed that Saudi intelligence concluded that Bin Laden succumbed to typhoid fever sometime between August 23 and September 4 while in hiding in Pakistan.

French President Jacques Chirac as well as US, Pakistani and Afghan officials distanced themselves from the report, saying that it could not be confirmed. — AFP



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