The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ansari in meeting rush

Srinagar, Oct. 22: The Maulvi Abbas Ansari-led faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference has welcomed L.K. Advani’s decision to hold talks on Kashmir, but said it “would proceed cautiously”.

“The agenda for talks would have to be spelt out first,” said Hurriyat chairman Ansari, speaking over telephone from New Delhi. Even so, “I have convened a meeting of the Hurriyat executive tomorrow in Srinagar to discuss the latest offer”, he added.

“I am rushing back to Srinagar tomorrow and we will react after detailed discussions on the talks offer,” Ansari said.

The Hurriyat leader sounded a note of caution. “The talks have to be meaningful and aimed at resolving the (Kashmir) issue.” Otherwise, it would not “solve the problem”, he added.

The Hurriyat split last month when 15 of its 23 general council members elected Syed Ali Shah Geelani chairman by ousting Ansari, a senior Shia leader.

The Ansari faction insists that the Hurriyat executive is “intact” even if the general council has split, while Geelani’s supporters claim he enjoys “unflinching support” from militant groups.

The firebrand Geelani responded to the decision to hold talks, dates for which are yet to be announced, by saying: “The government of India has to first accept that Kashmir is a disputed territory and then start a tripartite dialogue involving India, Pakistan and Kashmir. That alone will lead to any fruitful result.”

He said the offer was an “ornamental exercise by the Government of India. They are being unrealistic on Kashmir.”

Former Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat, who was earlier this month ousted from the Muslim Conference that he headed, reacted by saying: “We will not give any reaction. We are meeting tomorrow and after detailed deliberations, we will give our reaction.”

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed hailed the Centre’s decision to hold a dialogue on Kashmir.

The chief minister hoped the talks “would receive a positive response so that lasting peace is restored in Jammu and Kashmir. I am extremely happy to learn about the decision for which I had been persistently trying to break the stalemate in the process of dialogue”.

Mufti said: “While (central interlocutor) .. Vohra has done his job well, there were several sections, especially secessionists who were insisting on holding direct talks with the Prime Minister or the deputy Prime Minister on the pattern of Nagaland.

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