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June 28, 1999
Sharief decides to cut short China visit, to return on Wednesday
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief, who arrived in Beijing today to seek Chinese support for a settlement of the Kashmir issue, will cut short his visit to China, ostensibly because of "the ongoing conflict in Kargil", Pakistan's commercial NNI news agency reported today.
Sharief, who arrived in Beijing early today on a five-day 'working visit', will return to Islamabad on Wednesday instead of on Friday.
Sharief held talks with Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji and is to meet tomorrow the two most senior figures in the ruling Communist Party -- President Jiang Zemin and Legislature Chairman Li Peng -- before flying back to Pakistan.
An Associated Press report from Beijing quoted Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Tariq Altaf as saying late today that Sharief decided to cut short his visit "because of the situation back home". Altaf claimed that Sharief decided to cut short his visit even before leaving Islamabad.
He planned to lobby Chinese leaders to back the Pakistani demand for a final settlement of Kashmir.
Meeting Sharief, Premier Zhu described China and Pakistan as "all-weather' friends", according to an account released by Xinhua, the Chinese government's news agency. But he also repeated China's call for dialogue between India and Pakistan to "ease the tensions".
After their meeting, Sharif and Zhu presided at the signing of three agreements, on media, trade and allowing Pakistan's Hong Kong consulate to conduct consular business in Macau after the Portuguese colony returns to Chinese rule in December.
Sharief's change of plan means he will not visit the south-western city of Kunming, where China is hosting the world's largest gardening show. Instead, after meeting President Jiang, he will fly to Hong Kong tomorrow night and then back to Pakistan on Wednesday.
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