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Ansari ready for second round of talks

Last updated on: March 15, 2004 16:24 IST

Expressing willingness to enter the second round of talks with Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, the Hurriyat Conference led by Maulvi Abbas Ansari on Monday said a decision on the issue would be taken only after a formal invitation from the Centre.

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"We are ready to move forward on the dialogue process. We will decide whether to hold talks or not only after a formal invitation is received," Ansari told reporters in Srinagar on the sidelines of a Hurriyat executive meeting.

On the deadline given to the Centre for improving the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Ansari said it is 'my individual decision, which gets abrogated when collective decisions are taken'.

A joint meeting of the Hurriyat's executive committee, general council and working committee would discuss the agenda for the talks.

He said the decision by People's Political Front chairman Fazl Haq Qureshi, who was part of the Hurriyat delegation during its path-breaking January 22 talks with the Centre, to pull out would not affect the talks.

Welcoming the thaw in relations between India and Pakistan, he said, while the two countries sort out their differences, the Kashmir issue should not be ignored. "We would like to hold talks with the Pakistani leadership as they control two-thirds of the state," he said.

Asked if BJP-led NDA government was trying to derive election benefits from the talks with the Hurriyat, Ansari said, "They are talking to Pakistan and playing cricket there. Won't they benefit from it?"

Ansari expressed reservations over the release of political prisoners. "Those released earlier were counter-insurgents and petty criminals, which we duly conveyed to the government," he said.

On the return of Kashmiri Pandits to the valley, Ansari said there were two groups in the community - one wanted a separate homeland while the other wanted to return to their original homes.

"I think the creation of homeland for Pandits would sour relations between the Muslims and Hindus in the valley," he said.

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