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Blair Meets Vajpayee; Urges Dialogue, Rejection of Terrorism - 2002-01-06

British Prime minister Tony Blair has stressed the need for a political dialogue to solve problems between India and Pakistan, the South Asian neighbors whose tense standoff has raised fears of a military confrontation. Mr. Blair has talked with the Indian prime minister and travels to Pakistan on Monday.

After holding talks with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the British leader said it was important for the two countries to hold a political dialogue, but said an absolute rejection of terrorism was necessary to pave the way for negotiations. "In the end this is something that has to be resolved between the two countries concerned," he said. "But the very strong feeling in the international community is that people want to see the circumstances brought about where dialogue and political process can take the place of violence and extremism and terrorism."

Mr. Blair's discussions in New Delhi took place hours after Mr. Vajpayee returned from a regional summit in Nepal, where there were no signs of a breakthrough in the tense standoff between India and Pakistan.

Mr. Vajpayee told reporters on his return, that no immediate talks with Pakistan were planned. He said nothing of significance was discussed during a brief encounter he had with Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf in Nepal. Mr. Vajpayee said the Pakistani leader had avoided the issue of terrorism. "While we were waiting there, I did refer to the speech made by General Musharraf in the morning session in the conference at Kathmandu," he said, "and I pointed out that in your entire speech the word terrorism has been avoided. He did not reply, but it was a big omission. He spoke of violence, he spoke of other problems, but he avoided mentioning terrorism."

The Indian prime minister said India favors holding a dialogue with Pakistan to solve their disputes, but said past overtures by New Delhi had not produced results. India and Britain have signed a joint declaration condemning all those who supported and financed terrorism. The declaration has equated the attack on India's parliament and an earlier one on Kashmir's state assembly with the September 11th terrorist strikes in the United States.

Mr. Blair will also be holding discussions with Pakistani leaders in Islamabad after leaving New Delhi on Monday.