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Aziz set to wade into tricky talks terrain

Islamabad, June 2: Pakistanís high commissioner-designate to India, Aziz Ahmed Khan, takes up his sensitive appointment hoping to resolve outstanding disputes between the neighbours.

Khan, who is the official foreign office spokesman, gave his last briefing to newsmen today. He was appointed high commissioner after a controversy over Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamaliís reported nomination of Riaz Mohammed Khan for the post. The same day that the state-owned PTV carried the news, the foreign office denied that it was sending the Pakistan ambassador to China over to India. Khan was officially named envoy a few days later.

At the official briefing, Khan said Pakistan wanted early resumption of dialogue with India to discuss all problems, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

The new high commissioner said Islamabad was ready for talks at any level, any time and any place. He said Pakistan would not be found wanting in responding to any suggestions for a meaningful, sustained and result-oriented dialogue with India. Khan reiterated Pakistanís position that the Kashmir issue should be resolved in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and UN resolutions.

He said there was a fair degree of optimism on both sides about the talks as demonstrated in the steps taken by them. The logjam has been broken and the neighbours have given positive signals. Khan hoped the process gathers momentum soon.

The high commissioner said he wanted the two countries to sit across the table with an open mind and a positive approach. He said peace would result if bilateral problems are resolved. This would free up precious resources for public welfare, Khan added.

The high commissioner said he had not yet finalised when he would take up his new assignment. He said his departure did not depend on when India would send its envoy to Islamabad.

Asked about resumption of air links between the neighbours, Khan said civil aviation authorities in Pakistan and India would sort out the details. Similarly, bus and train services would be resumed after the necessary groundwork.

He said Pakistanís high commission in New Delhi was in touch with Indian authorities over the release of Pakistani prisoners. Khan hoped India would reciprocate its gesture of releasing prisoners.

Asked about the next Saarc summit in Pakistan, the envoy said Islamabad had proposed dates to the secretary-general of the association. Final dates would be announced after feedback from member countries.

Asked about the recent arms deal between India and Israel, Khan said New Delhiís acquisition of sophisticated weapons would disturb peace in the region and divert precious resources onto arms acquisition.

The envoy-designate said Iranian leaders appreciated Pakistanís cooperation in the fight against terror during a recent visit by foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri to Tehran. Khan said the leaders felt the two countries should step up cooperation to jointly fight terrorism.

ĎNo Alladinís lampí

Pakistan today indirectly admitted to cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir but said it did not have an ďAlladinís lampĒ to put an end to it.

ďWe have never said there should be cross-border terrorism. What we have been saying is that our government is trying its level best to stop it,Ē Kasuri said at a special phone-in programme of BBC Hindi, Aap ki Baat BBC ke Saath, broadcast last night.

ďIf some people go endangering their own lives and if the Indian Army, which is present in lakhs and is also along the LoC, cannot stop them, which Alladinís lamp do we have that we rub it and all this stops'Ē he asked.

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