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India, Pakistan Dialogue to Focus on Kashmir, Other Issues - 2004-01-06


World leaders are hailing a landmark agreement between India and Pakistan to resume talks over the disputed Kashmir region.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he is sure Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart, Pervez Musharraf will find the statesmanship, leadership and the wisdom to move the process forward.

Italy, Britain and Germany welcomed the announcement that the nuclear rivals would meet next month - after a break of more than two years.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said the agreement between the two leaders opens new opportunities for peace in the region.

Mr. Musharraf and Mr. Vajpayee said the new round of talks would focus on the decades-long dispute over Kashmir as well as other issues including terrorism and economic cooperation.

The Pakistani leader described the breakthrough as "historic" and said he is confident the talks will bring peace.

The announcement came at the end of a South Asian regional summit in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Leaders of seven nations agreed to form a vast free trade zone and to draw up a social charter aimed at fostering cooperation among the region's one-point-four billion residents.

India and Pakistan fought two wars over the disputed Kashmir region and came to the brink of another war in 2001. But last year, after Mr. Vajpayee's overtures, New Delhi and Islamabad began taking steps to improve relations.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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