The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Blair steers clear of Kashmir
Villagers from Uri, 100 km from Srinagar, board a bus near a signboard showing the distance to Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan occupied Kashmir. (Reuters)

London, Dec. 6: Tony Blair had talks today at 10 Downing Street with Pervez Musharraf but the British Prime Minister made it clear that he was happy to let India and Pakistan deal with Kashmir as a bilateral issue.

This might disappoint Musharraf who wants the issue to be given the same status as the struggle of the Palestinians.

Blair voiced support for the dialogue between India and Pakistan, but steered clear of suggesting Britain could play a role in talks.

'The most intelligent thing to do is for us to give India and Pakistan every support in the effort to resolve this,' he said. 'There is the prospect of dialogue there. I welcome that. I think that that dialogue has to be meaningful.'

The British Prime Minister added: 'I hope that in time to come it is possible for India and Pakistan to come to understandings over Kashmir that allow these two very great and powerful countries to focus on issues to do with economic development, to do with stability in the wider world and the whole set of regional interests they have in common, rather than have the whole of their relationship determined by this issue.'

Blair also said: 'In the past few years, we have spoken about this many times and I think and hope that our input has been constructive, but in order for it to be constructive it also has to be diplomatic.'

Blair congratulated Musharraf for his efforts 'to bring together moderate voices in respect of Islam in order to show the true face of the true faith of Islam'. He also thanked the Pakistani leader for his 'leadership at this difficult time'.

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