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Clinton warns Pakistan Stop cross-border terrorism; Musharraf ready for talks

Clinton warns Pakistan Stop cross-border terrorism; Musharraf ready for talks

The Tribune
March 26, 2000
Title: Clinton warns Pakistan Stop cross-border terrorism; Musharraf ready for talks
Publication: The Tribune
Date: March 26, 2000

ISLAMABAD, March 25 (PTI) - US President Bill Clinton today emphatically told Pakistan to stop cross border terrorism, create conditions for resumption of Indo-Pak dialogue and warned Islamabad of "more isolation" if it continued to support violence.

"No matter how great the grievance, it is wrong to support attacks against civilians across the Line of Control," Mr Clinton said in a 15-minute televised address to the Pakistani people after an hour and 40 minutes of talks with the military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.

He firmly rejected the demand for American mediation on the Kashmir issue.

White House spokesman Joe Lockhart told reporters President Clinton spoke "bluntly" to Gen Musharraf about US concerns on nuclear disarmament, terrorism, Kashmir and return of democracy in Pakistan but failed to get any assurances from him.

Addressing a press conference later Gen Musharraf said he told the US President that Pakistan wanted India to take "reciprocal action" for reducing tension and was willing to hold talks with New Delhi "at anytime, anywhere and at any level."

"I said that there was a requirement for reciprocal action to reduce tension....Then we can also use our influence to moderate the activities of freedom fighters," he said.

However, according to a report from New Delhi, National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra today said, "No talks are possible unless Pakistan stops aiding terrorism in Kashmir".

President Clinton, who made a nearly five-hour stopover here after a five-day visit to India, said in his address "We (the US) can't and will not mediate to resolve the dispute in Kashmir. Only you and India can do that through dialogue."

"I hope you will be able to meet the difficult challenges we have discussed today. If you don't there is a danger that Pakistan may grow even more isolated, draining even more resources away from the needs of the people, moving even closure to a conflict no one can win," President Clinton said.

After talks in New Delhi on Tuesday, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had urged Mr Clinton to take up with the Pakistani leadership India's concerns which the US President had said he would.

Stating that it was in Pakistan's interest to reduce tensions with India, Mr Clinton said "a stark truth must also be faced. There is no military solution to the Kashmir" problem.

He warned Pakistan against making any attempts to alter the country's borders through violence and bloodshed.

He said Islamabad also must help create conditions that will allow Indo-Pak dialogue to succeed.

"For India and Pakistan this must be a time of restraint, for respect of the Line of Control, for renewed lines of communications," Mr Clinton, who later left for Geneva to hold talks with Syrian President Hafez Al Assad on the Middle East peace process, said.

He said restoration of full economic and political partnership with Pakistan depended on Islamabad meeting these challenges.

President Clinton also made a strong case for return of democracy in Pakistan, saying "the answer to flawed democracy is not end to democracy but to improve it."

The US President asked Pakistan to ponder whether it was more secure today than before it tested nuclear weapons. He told Islamabad that one way to strengthen its security would be to join the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as the whole world would then rally around it.

He said Pakistan could achieve great things but faced obstacles in the form of its political and economic situation as also tension in the region. "They are holding Pakistan back from achieving its full potential in the global economy.

He raised the issue of 'clemency' for deposed Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is facing trial on charges of treason and hijacking, the maximum punishment for which is death.

"Yes, he (Clinton) did raise the issue of Nawaz Sharif ... he suggested restraint on my part," Gen Musharraf told a crowded press conference after his nearly two-hour long talks with Clinton, who made a five-hour stopover here.

The Chief Executive said that his response on the matter was that the case is in the court.

"We are not a vindictive people," he said.

Elaborating on what transpired between the two on the Sharif case, Gen Mushraff said the U.S. President talked of the "history" of violence against leaders "in one form or the other" in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.

Gen Musharraf said he had emphatically conveyed to US President that "unilateral action is not possible by Pakistan. There is requirement of reciprocity to start dialogue".

The military ruler had a tough time answering pointed queries on President Clinton endorsing New Delhi's stand respecting the sanctity of Line of Control, cross-border terrorism, abjuring violence and no role for third party mediation on the Kashmir issue.

He also sought to downplay suggestions that Washington's new engagement with India was to Islamabad's disadvantage.

He voiced satisfaction with the visit and said it was a good omen for the region's future.

"It augurs well for the future of our region," Gen Musharraf said.

General Musharraf assured US President Clinton he would take up with the Taliban in Afghanistan Washington's demand that international terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden be brought to justice.

Replying to a question, Mr Musharraf told reporters that he informed Mr Clinton that the issue relating to bin Laden was a "pechida (complicated)" one. He said there had been no success so far on the issue.

"I will raise the issue whenever I go to Afghanistan and I will certainly go," Pakistan's Chief Executive said.

"We don't mind returning to the Lahore process, if the centrality of the Kashmir issue is realised," General Musharraf said at the press conference after the departure of Mr Clinton.

"We deeply appreciate the interest expressed by President Clinton in the resolution of the Kashmir dispute and reduction of tensions between Pakistan and India," he said.

"I also impressed upon President Clinton that US engagement is necessary to facilitate a meaningful dialogue for progress towards resolution of the Kashmir problem, in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people," he said.

To a question, he said he had given an "open formula" on resumption of dialogue and it was up to President Clinton what role he would play.

He said Mr Clinton had "visited our region at a time when it is passing through a critical period. We both share the concern that tensions in South Asia are high and need to be defused. It is widely recognised that Kashmir is the root cause of tensions in the region."

On cross-border terrorism, General Musharraf said, "We are not involved in sending people across the Line of Control into Kashmir. Nobody is allowed to go across. If there is some infiltration it is without our knowledge."

He said if Indian troops could not stop infiltration, "how could Pakistan be expected to do so with 50,000 personnel."

Asked if the visit of the US President had given legitimacy to his government, he said, "I think my legitimacy comes from the people of Pakistan. Legitimacy comes from the people's support. I do not need a certificate from anybody."

"My discussions with the US President also covered all issues of mutual concern relative to the region and beyond, including nuclear matters and terrorism," the military ruler said.

"The US President pointed to certain concerns over nuclear proliferation and emphasised the need for restraint," General Musharraf said, adding "I reaffirmed our policy of restraint and responsibility on nuclear matters."

He said he had reiterated to Mr Clinton Pakistan's long-standing policy of preventing nuclear proliferation. "I stated that Pakistan's nuclear deterrence is indispensable for our security. I proposed resumption of dialogue with the USA on nuclear issues."

He said both the USA and Pakistan agreed on the need to combat the menace of terrorism. "Pakistan will continue to participate in all international efforts aimed at combating terrorism and in whichever form it occurs."

Highlights of address

Pakistan must reduce tension with India  Respect the Line of Control  No military solution to Kashmir  Supporting attacks against civilians across the LoC wrong USA will not mediate in the Kashmir dispute  Meet challenges or face isolation.

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