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Pakistan Requests UN Observers Along Kashmir Border - 2003-01-27

Pakistan insists that U.N. military observers be deployed along the disputed border in Kashmir to verify that Islamic militants are not crossing into the Indian-controlled part of the region.

Indian and U.S. officials say the number of militants infiltrating Indian Kashmir from Pakistan has increased in recent days. But in a weekly news conference in Islamabad, the foreign ministry spokesman again refuted the allegations.

Spokesman Aziz Ahmad Khan said "the best and only way" to verify the Pakistani claim is to bring in U.N. monitors on both sides of the Kashmir border. "We would like the United Nations observers to be deployed there in as large a number as is necessary, but on both sides of the 'line of control,'" said Mr. Khan, referring to the cease-fire line. "And we still insist on our claim that all measures have been taken to stop the infiltration across the Line of Control."

India is opposed to international mediation on Kashmir, including neutral observers. India alleges that Pakistan sends Muslim militants across the Kashmir border to fuel a separatist insurgency in the region. But spokesman Khan reiterated that the unrest in Indian Kashmir is indigenous. "To interpret their [the Kashmirs peoples'] struggle for self-determination as something instigated from across the Line of Control is a total travesty of facts," he said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has criticized the Indian Defense Minister's latest threat of nuclear holocaust and said such statements do not help lower tensions and improve relations.

Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes is reported as saying that Pakistan would be "erased from the world map" if it launched a nuclear attack against India.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed territory of Kashmir. In recent years, the rival nations have equipped their armies with nuclear weapons, raising fears of a nuclear conflict in South Asia.

Both countries have ignored repeated calls from the international community to ease tensions and work toward peace.