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July 10, 1999
Sharief's appeal boosts US peace initiative
C K Arora in Washington
Prospects of the success of US President Bill Clinton's efforts to end the two-month-old Kargil conflict appear to have brightened following the Pakistani decision to appeal to the Kashmiri militants for a retreat in the face of the international pressure.
A State Department official welcomed the Pakistani move yesterday saying, ''We continue to be confident that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief wishes to see the end to the conflict in Kargil.''
According officials in Washington, Sharief is expected to make a formal appeal to the militants today. What encouraged them most is the support offered to Nawaz Sharief by the country's Army Chief Pervez Mushrraf.
This is the most important development, they say.
They believe that Prime Minister Sharief and his government have the influence on the militants and the ability to deliver on the promise he made to President Clinton to withdraw the Pakistani-backed forces from the Indian side of the Line of Control in Kashmir which according to India is a prerequisite for any settlement.
They view the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Defence yesterday as the first of the concrete steps Sharief had agreed with President Clinton to defuse tension in Kargil.
Sharief agreed with President Clinton for the restoration of the sanctity of the LoC in accordance with the 1972 Simla Agreement which presupposes the withdrawal of the forces, including the militants.
White House Spokesman P J Crowley said that Prime Minister Sharief was aware of the steps required to deal with the situation.
He said the joint statement issued by Prime Minister Sharief and President Clinton in Washington last week called for the restoration of the respect for the LoC. We continue to watch the situation closely in the hope that concrete steps will be taken to defuse the current situation and pave the way for unhampered bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan, he added.
President Clinton has been trying from the very beginning to defuse the crisis. He made telephone calls to Vajpayee and Sharief besides writing to them individually stressing the need for ending the conflict.
During his July 4 meeting in Washington with Sharief, President Clinton again called Vajpayee. Later, his National Security Advisor Sandy Berger spoke to Vajpayee's advisor Brijesh Mishra and apprised him of their discussions with Sharief. The next day Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott called Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh.
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