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Indian PM, Kashmiri Separatists Open Talks - 2004-01-23


Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has met today (Friday) with separatist leaders from disputed Kashmir.

One separatist leader (Umar Farooq) told Indian reporters ahead of the talks that the delegation planned to express its "complete support" for efforts to achieve peace between India and Pakistan.

The talks in New Delhi included five moderate leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference -- an umbrella organization of Kashmiri separatist and Islamic militant groups.

Thursday, the Kashmiri leaders met with India's deputy prime minister in the first high-level meeting between Muslim separatists and Indian officials since the insurgency in the Himalayan region began in 1989.

After that meeting, the two sides issued a joint statement denouncing violence and calling for a step-by-step solution to the Kashmiri dispute.

Meanwhile, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says any solution for the disputed region must be acceptable to all three groups involved -- Pakistan, India and Kashmiris.

Mr. Musharraf also said talks between India and Pakistan remain on schedule for next month, but that the location has yet to be decided.

He made the comments today during an interview with CNN on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Information for this report is provided by AFP.

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