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India, Kashmiri Separatists Agree Violence in Kashmir Must End - 2004-01-22


The Indian government and moderate Kashmiri Muslim separatist leaders have agreed that all forms of violence in the disputed Himalayan region must end.

The two sides made the comment in a joint statement in New Delhi, following their first direct, high-level talks since the start of the separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir 14 years ago.

The statement, read by India's Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani and one of the separatist leaders, Abdul Ghani Bhat, says that today's (Thursday) meeting in New Delhi was the first significant step in the dialogue process initiated by the government of India. It says that the two sides have agreed to hold another round of talks in March.

Mr. Advani said the Kashmiri separatist leaders have also requested a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, and that it will take place Friday.

The Kashmiri delegation was led by Moulana Abbas Ansari, who heads the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella group of Kashmiri political and Islamic religious groups.

The moderate Kashmiri leaders say a cease-fire by the Indian military will help restore confidence among the people. They also say they want permission to travel to Pakistan to urge Kashmiri militant groups to back such a cease-fire.

Muslim rebels have been fighting the Indian government for an independent Kashmir, or its merger with Pakistan, since 1989. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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