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July 10, 1999
Decision on withdrawal on Monday
Militant groups may meet on Monday to reply to Pakistan's appeal to withdraw from hilltop battlefields in Kashmir, the head of one mujahideen group said today.
Fazalur Rehman Khalil, leader of the Harkatul Mujahideen, said several of some 15 mujahideen organisations held talks with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief late yesterday.
He said the mujahideen's umbrella organisation, the United Jehad Council, would probably make its position known after Sharief addresses the National Assembly and makes a state broadcast on Monday night.
The organisations initially rejected Sharief's appeal for a withdrawal as "surrender and betrayal", but the government's top civil/military body -- the Defence Committee of the Cabinet -- renewed the request yesterday and said it was in the national interest and would not hurt their cause.
The DCC claimed that Sharief, in talks with US President Bill Clinton, had successfully "internationalised" the Kashmir issue and won a pledge of personal interest from the American leader.
"We had the impression that the government had given up everything in Washington, but from the discussion with the prime minister it seems that what we heard was not all true," the Harkatul leader said.
Other mujahideen leaders declined comment and were said to be consulting each other in various parts of Pakistan and the occupied territory of Kashmir.
It was not clear if Harkatul's position mirrored that of other mujahideen organisations. "Don't take my words as speaking for the council," said Khalil, whose group is one of the largest fighting in the Kargil sector.
"For the time being the war in Kargil will continue. In fact today there has been fierce fighting in Batalik and Drass sectors and let me assure you that even after the prime minister's address there will be no de-escalation at the front," he said.
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