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May 29, 1999
Pak ready to send foreign minister
Pakistan has offered to send its Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to New Delhi even as its Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief has called his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee on the hotline underscoring the need to resume dialogue.
An official spokesman said last night that Sharief spoke to Vajpayee at around 1645 hours on Friday for some 20 minutes. Vajpayee told Sharief that Pakistan ''must show goodwill to avoid escalation of the situation in Kargil''.
Pakistan Information Minister Mushahid Hussain, in an interview to Star News, confirmed the telephone conversation of the two leaders and said his country had offered to fly down Aziz to New Delhi for special talks to defuse the tension in Kargil.
Asked about the time-frame of such an offer, Hussain said Aziz was ready ''at the earliest opportunity, depending on the availability'' of his counterpart in Delhi.
Pakistan's offer has yet to be confirmed by Indian officials.
Earlier, India charged Pakistan with escalating the conflict in the Kargil sector where an Indian Air Force Mi-17 helicopter gunship was shot down by a Stinger missile fired by infiltrators, killing all four crew members.
Sharief has asked Secretary General Kofi Annan to beef up the United Nations military observer mission in Kashmir and immediately despatch a special UN envoy to preserve peace.
Sharief's letter to Annan was delivered on Thursday to Deputy Secretary General Louise Frechette. This was disclosed yesterday by Salman Abbasy, spokesman for Pakistan's UN mission.
In New York, the United Nations said yesterday that ''it was encouraged with efforts by India and Pakistan leaders to defuse the conflict''.
Annan said in a statement that he was ''encouraged by the direct contact'' between the two prime ministers.
He said he was ''very concerned by the hostilities near the Line of Control''.
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