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Pakistan President Convinced Kashmir Deal within Reach

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said the leaders of India and Pakistan must try to resolve the long-running dispute over Kashmir before they leave office. Speaking during a visit to Australia, the president said he was optimistic that a peace deal would soon be brokered.

President Musharraf believes that an end to the Kashmir dispute is within reach. He told the National Press Club in the Australian capital Canberra that the best chance for peace lay in his warming relationship with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Pakistani president said there would be no guarantee that future leaders of the two countries would enjoy such understanding.

Mr. Musharraf's term in office is due to expire in 2007, while India is due to go to the polls in 2009.

Kashmir has been at the center of two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since independence from Britain in 1947. Relations between these two South Asian rivals are improving since peace talks began early last year.

President Musharraf believes a resolution to the Kashmir crisis is not far off, but only if both sides display the same determination… "We cannot brush the disputes under the carpet as we have been doing in the past," he said. "This time it cannot be conflict management. We have tried this in the past and failed always."

The violence in Kashmir has continued. A car bomb exploded in the town of Pulwama, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 others.

More than 45,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989.

In Australia, Canberra and Islamabad are expected to sign a new counter-terrorism pact Wednesday.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Pakistan was a strong ally in the war against terrorism and praised its efforts to dismantle Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaida network.