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Neither plebiscite nor conversion of LoC a solution, says Musharraf

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, OCT. 25. The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, tonight said that neither plebiscite nor conversion of the Line of Control (LoC) as a permanent border could be a solution to the Kashmir issue.

Addressing an Iftar dinner for the Editors of Pakistan newspapers, he suggested that the two countries first identify the regions, demilitarise them and then change their status to settle the lingering issue.

It is for the second time in recent days that Gen. Musharraf has talked about the need to `demilitarise' the identified regions. In an interaction with a group of visiting Indians last fortnight, he made the proposal for the first time.

In July this year while interacting with the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, Gen. Musharraf talked about the need for providing `comfort' to the Kashmiris as India and Pakistan explore ways to resolve Kashmir. Sources in the Pakistan Foreign Office said that the General's suggestion of demilitarisation of the identified zones is to be seen in that context.

Gen. Musharraf told the Editors that insisting on plebiscite or making the LoC a permanent border could not solve the Kashmir issue. "Any such solution has to be based on three points. First, we will have to identify the regions, demilitarise them and in the third stage change their status," he said.

He said that his recent talks with the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in New York had been very useful. "In our next meeting [during the SAARC summit in Dhaka in January], we would look into various options which would come both from Pakistan and India."

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