The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal move positive: Pak

Islamabad, April 21 (PTI): Pakistan today termed Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s offer of friendship as the “only positive statement from India for a long time” and said New Delhi should come up with initiatives to resume dialogue in a “couple” of days.

In the first detailed response to Vajpayee’s weekend proposal to resume dialogue, Pakistan foreign office spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said: “We have already welcomed it. This is the only positive statement from India after a long time.”

Khan expressed hope that India would take “immediate steps to kick-start” the dialogue process to discuss all issues. Pakistan expected India to come up with an initiative to resume parleys in a “couple” of days.

The spokesman said Pakistan had always favoured resumption of talks but insisted that India should not impose preconditions. “Dialogue can only succeed when there are no preconditions,” he said at the weekly press briefing.

On the issue of cross-border terrorism, he said: “The best way to sort out this matter is by deploying neutral or UN observers…. Let us sit across the table and discuss all the problems.”

Asked whether Pakistan planned any initiative to start the talks he said: “We have our longstanding offer of holding talks any time, at any level. India will not find us wanting. We are even ready to start the talks tomorrow.”

Pakistan, Khan said, will discuss bilateral issues and the regional situation when US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage visits the country. Islamabad hopes that international assistance would continue to resolve the issues between India and Pakistan through bilateral talks, he said.

“We feel that the international community can play an important role in all the problems bedevilling the subcontinent, through mediation or facilitation,” he said.

Referring to the allegations of India possessing weapons of mass destruction, Khan said India was a signatory to the UN chemical weapons convention and is obliged to destroy the weapons. Even under the 1992 agreement signed between Pakistan and India, both sides had pledged that neither would produce chemical weapons. Pakistan, he said, does not have any such weapons, he asserted.

Khan said certain sets of dates for the Saarc summit were being studied and would be followed by a process to determine when the summit can be held.

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