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Hurriyat to meet Vajpayee on Friday

By Onkar Singh in New Delhi
Last updated on: January 22, 2004 20:44 IST
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The five-member All Parties Hurriyat Conference team, which opened talks with Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani on Thursday seeking a just and enduring solution to the Kashmir problem, will make a courtesy call on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Friday.

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Advani told reporters that the Hurriyat team made a request to see the prime minister during its meeting with him.

The prime minister was contacted in Pune and the Hurriyat team was granted time for Friday evening, Advani said.

The deputy prime minister said this has been conveyed to the Hurriyat leadership.

Talking to, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, who is a part of the Hurriyat team, said he was delighted that prime minister had agreed to meet them.

Advani said the second round of talks scheduled for late March will be held in Delhi. He said since he would be busy in electioneering, he would not have time to go to Srinagar.

Referring to Thursday's meeting, the deputy prime minister said a good beginning has been made. "It's a good beginning in the dialouge that has been initiated in respect of Jammu and Kashmir so far as the elements who were not part of the political process," he said.

He recalled the August 15, 2002 speech made by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee from the ramparts of the Red Fort in which he said the government of India is committed to hold free and fair elections in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. "We would have been very happy if the All Parties Hurriyat Conference had itself participated in the elections. Some of them did, but not in the name of the Hurriyat," he said.

Advani said he also reminded the Hurriyat team how Prime Minister Vajpayee went to Srinagar in April 2003 and held out a hand of friendship to Pakistan.

"It culminated in a joint statement by the Indian prime minister and Pakistan president. The climate that has been created by all these [events] has contributed to the new atmosphere in which there is an all round determination to see that violence comes to an end and the state moves forward," Advani said.

Advani said he told APHC leaders they should pay attention to the pathetic conditions that Kashmiri Pandits are living in. "Nobody would be able to live there [in refugee camps] for even 10 days and they have been living in those camps for ten years or more," Advani said.

Advani skirted the question when asked if the Hurriyat leadership had raised the issue of going to Pakistan. "I cannot be telling you what happened. What they said and how we responded."


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Onkar Singh in New Delhi
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