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Hizb links truce to talks progress

Rawalpindi, May 11 (Reuters): A prominent Kashmiri guerrilla leader hailed the peace initiative but dismissed the possibility of an immediate ceasefire in the Valley.

Syed Salahuddin, founder of the Hizb-ul Mujahideen did not, however, rule out a truce in the future if Pakistan and India showed progress toward settling the Kashmir dispute.

“A ceasefire is not necessary for dialogue,” Salahuddin said. “Armed struggle and dialogue can go simultaneously as was the case in Afghanistan and Vietnam.”

“A ceasefire will reciprocate the development of this bilateral exercise (between Pakistan and India),” he said. “If there is any sincerity shown by the parties in addressing the issue, then (we) will give a positive response.”

Sources in militant groups fighting in Kashmir say their leaders have been weighing the pros and cons of a truce but it would be premature to call one now.

“Ceasefire is a weapon, not a surrender,” one militant said. “But the time is not ripe for it now. We will wait and see.”

Sporting a bushy beard and wearing his trademark peaked cap, Salahuddin said Kashmiri rebels welcomed the recent moves by Pakistan and India — provided they led to the settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

“The situation will not normalise with the upgrading of diplomatic relations, resumption of cricket matches and road and rail links between the two countries,” he said.

“The foremost thing is to restore the confidence of the people of Kashmir and address the main issue (of Kashmir).”

Salahuddin, who fought but lost in the 1987 Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir before launching his militant group, said Kashmiris had every right to move across the ceasefire line dividing the region.

“There is no border. It is a ceasefire line erected between Indian-occupied Kashmir and Azad (Pakistani) Kashmir,” he said.

“The movement of Kashmiris across this line cannot be termed as cross-border terrorism,” he said.

Jamali set for talks

Pakistan has said its premier, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, will hold talks with his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in the event of a summit with India.

Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri announced the intention while talking to reporters before leaving for New York yesterday to attend a UN Security Council meeting.

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