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"Talks only with main leaders"

Special Correspondent

TEZPUR: The Centre says it is open to talks with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) but it would be with the "main leaders" and not intermediaries. The ULFA will also have to abjure violence and the talks must be "unconditional."

This formulation was spelt out jointly by Defence Minister A. K. Antony and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi at a news conference here on Tuesday.

Mr. Antony said that it was the Centre's consistent policy to integrate the disaffected people into the national mainstream, whatever the cause.

"Our mind is not closed but we will not turn a blind eye to heinous actions of this kind. It has to be dealt with strongly. If they are willing to abjure violence and hold unconditional talks, the door is open. Our first priority at the moment is to meet this challenge.

"This policy is not just for ULFA but applies to all militant groups," he said.

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