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'Pakistan Does Not Want War,' Assures Musharraf - 2002-05-27

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says his country does not want war with India, but is ready to respond with full force if Indian forces attack.

In a strongly worded national speech, President Musharraf said that Pakistan is faced with a grave situation and is standing at the crossroads of history. He told his nation the danger of war with India is not yet over.

"Pakistan does not want war," said General Musharraf. "Pakistan will not be the one to initiate war. We want peace in the region. Let me also assure the international community that Pakistan is doing nothing across the Line of Control [the disputed border in Kashmir]. And Pakistan will never allow the export of terrorism anywhere in the world from within Pakistan," said the Pakistani leader.

India accuses Pakistan of sending armed militants to attack India and fuel a decade-long Muslim insurgency in the Kashmir.

General Musharraf said Pakistan can not be held responsible for what he called, a liberation movement in occupied Kashmir. But he reiterated that his country would support the Kashmiris in their struggle for independence.

President Musharraf said Pakistan has taken "bold steps" to stamp out anti-India militant groups in the county and offer peace talks to normalize relations with India. The Pakistani leader criticized India for not responding positively to these measures.

"I urge the world community to ask India to move towards normalization of relations, which really implies de-escalation and reduction of tension on the borders, which is of mutual benefit to both the countries, initiation of a process of dialogue, cessation of atrocities being perpetrated on the people of Kashmir," said Mr. Musharraf.

Indian officials say they will give an official response to the Pakistani leader's speech on Tuesday.

Tensions are running high between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Both the sides have mobilized nearly one-million troops along their border.

Dozens of civilians and solders have been killed in recent cross-border clashes between the South Asian nations. They are under intense pressure from the international community to avert war and defuse border tensions.