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PRESS CONFERENCE BY PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

20 January 2006

India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people must show courage, leadership, magnanimity, flexibility and a passion for peace in order to find a credible and lasting solution to the question of Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan said at a Headquarters press conference today.

The Prime Minister was responding to a correspondent’s series of questions following a meeting in which he and Secretary-General Kofi Annan discussed a wide range of topics, including relief assistance for victims of the 8 October earthquake, India-Pakistan relations, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.

Prime Minister Aziz stressed that the Kashmir issue must be addressed for sustainable peace in South Asia. Pakistan had proposed various initiatives, including the demilitarization of Kashmir, self-governance and the creation of an environment in which the Kashmiri population on both sides of the Line-of-Control could trade and otherwise interact without restrictions.

India-Pakistan relations must move from simple confidence-building measures to substantive dispute resolution, he said. It was to be hoped that the dialogue that Pakistan had started with India would move forward and that both sides, as well as the Kashmiri people, would work to find a solution. Once there was progress on that issue, the two sides would make progress in tandem on other issues like trade and investment, among others.

Regarding Iran, Pakistan was against proliferation in any form and opposed Iran’s producing any nuclear weapons, the Prime Minister told the same journalist. At the same time, every country had the right to use nuclear energy in order to meet its legitimate requirement for producing electricity. Iran had the right to do so as long as it was done under the safeguards, monitoring and guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) so that the whole world felt comfortable that the programme Iran was pursuing was for that purpose.

He said that the European Union troika, as well as the role of other countries like the Russian Federation and China, could be used effectively to create a sense of discussion in order to find a peaceful solution to that issue. Pakistan opposed the use of force to settle the nuclear question and believed in dialogue between the various stakeholders. The upcoming IAEA meeting in Vienna would provide a good forum to address the issue and create an environment in which a credible and lasting solution could be found.

Responding to the same correspondent’s question about the recent bombing in northern Pakistan by the United States military, he said the incident had resulted in the deaths of about 13 people. The Government and people of Pakistan had condemned the incident. Whether or not “high value targets” were present was under investigation, and Pakistani security had found no tangible evidence of the presence of any particular group or individual.

Another journalist asked why his Government would protest a United Nations appearance by Pakistani rape victim Mukhtar Mai, whose NGO-sponsored appearance was reportedly cancelled.

The Prime Minister said he had no idea. The Government felt that women all over the world, including Pakistan, must have the right to speak, be heard and live freely. Pakistan had, through statute, had reserved 30 per cent of the seats in political bodies and local assemblies for women. There were women pilots flying jet fighters in the air force, and the national Cabinet had an unprecedented five women members. However, progress must be made step by step.

What provisions there were in the current dialogue regarding the right of Kashmiri families illegally forced out of their homes in Srinagar by the Indian-backed authorities? another questioner asked.

The Prime Minister said that was not yet part of the dialogue, but it would be taken up at the right time.

Asked if his Government was determined to proceed with its proposed joint pipeline project with Iran regardless of whether that country was referred to the Security Council, he said that with an economic growth rate that was second only to that of China last year, energy security was something upon which Pakistan focused very seriously. To meet its future energy needs, Pakistan was looking to import gas from a variety of sources. Besides the proposed Iran pipeline, Pakistan was exploring the possibility of an under-sea gas pipeline from Qatar into Pakistan and on to India. It was also looking into a pipeline from Turkmenistan, through Afghanistan into Pakistan and on to India.

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For information media • not an official record



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