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Musharraf Calls for Cease-Fire Along Disputed Kashmir Border - 2003-08-12

In the latest step toward improving relations with India, Pakistan has called for a ceasefire along the disputed Kashmir border, known as the Line of Control.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made the ceasefire offer in a speech to a group of lawmakers from India.

He said Pakistan also is willing to persuade fighters in Indian-controlled Kashmir to improve the atmosphere. But President Musharraf said India must end what he calls human-rights atrocities in Kashmir, a divided region both countries claim.

"We should have a cease-fire on the Line of Control. One could attempt to facilitate, one could encourage a ceasefire also inside [Indian] Kashmir. But there is a reciprocation involved in this. If it is to be a unilateral issue, it may not be very practicable," Mr. Musharraf said.

For the Kashmir insurgency to end, President Musharraf said, India will have to stop atrocities, show greater tolerance of political activity and reduce the number of troops in its part of Kashmir.

News reports from India said New Delhi rejected the offer of a ceasefire.

But earlier in the day, one member of the Indian delegation was upbeat about prospects for peace.

Ram Jethmalani is a member of India's Parliament and the head of the country's semi-official Kashmir committee. He said leaders in both India and Pakistan seem to have realized that the Kashmir dispute cannot be resolved through violence and they have to be ready to compromise in any future discussions.

"I must tell you that the [Pakistani] president had no difficulty in accepting both these principles. I must tell you that everything that he told us Tuesday was extremely helpful. And I do not wish to belittle people back home, but I hope they will reciprocate," he said.

President Musharraf again denied that his country sponsors the 14-year-old Muslim insurgency in Kashmir, which has resulted in the deaths of tens-of-thousands of people.

The dispute over Kashmir has caused two wars between India and Pakistan and it remains at the center of their border tensions. The two nations came close to another war over Kashmir last year.

But tensions have eased in recent months. India and Pakistan have restored full diplomatic relations and cross-border bus service, after an 18-month break. This week's visit of Indian lawmakers is part of efforts to increase people-to-people contacts to improve relations.