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Vajpayee Calls for 'Victory over Terrorism' - 2002-05-26


Tensions between India and Pakistan continue to run high as India's prime minister says the country's patience with Pakistan has run out. Meanwhile, India has responded coolly to another Pakistani missile test.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called for "victory over terrorism" and asked people to prepare to defend themselves in this struggle.

Mr. Vajpayee said the world must understand that when a global coalition against terrorism is engaged in stamping out terror, India cannot be expected to stand mute while militants continue to attack its territory.

Mr. Vajpayee was speaking from Manali, where he is on vacation. His speech was carried live on national television.

India and Pakistan mobilized thousands of troops on their border after a deadly attack on the Indian parliament in December. An assault on an army camp in Indian Kashmir on May 14 led to renewed fears of a war between the hostile neighbors.

New Delhi blames Pakitan-backed militants for both attacks, Islamabad denies it is supporting the Muslim militants.

Mr. Vajpayee said India should have responded immediately to the attack on parliament in December. The prime minister's comments came amid intense diplomatic pressure on India to show restraint.

Mr. Vajpayee held discussions with Defense Minister George Fernandes, and National security adviser Brajesh Mishra who briefed the prime minister on the latest security situation.

India has publicly shrugged off Pakistan's missile tests, which began Saturday, and are scheduled to conclude Tuesday. Pakistan has said the tests are not related to current tensions with India. Senior Indian officials have said they are targeted at Islamabad's domestic audience.

But some officials admit New Delhi is angry that the tests are being conducted at a time when tensions are running high.

Meanwhile, after a brief lull, shelling on the disputed Kashmir border intensified on the weekend. There are reports that at least 16 civilians have been killed on both sides since Saturday.

The cross border fighting in the past 10 days has been the most intense in months, killing dozens of people and forcing thousands of villagers to flee.

In another development, Indian officials say a face-to-face meeting between Mr. Vajpayee and Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf at a regional conference being held in Kazakhstan in early June is unlikely. Russia's president Vladmir Putin had said the conference could provide an opportunity for both leaders to reduce tensions.

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