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Pakistan Zardari says no unilateral troops withdrawal from Siachen

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, April 20, IRNA -- Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari on Friday ruled out any unilateral withdrawal of troops from Siachen, two days after Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani proposed demilitarization of the world's highest battlefield.

President Zardari was apparently reacting to the statement of the country’s main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, who had urged Pakistan and India to withdraw troops from Siachen, where harsh weather has killed more troops of the two countries than fighting.

Sharif had also suggested to the government to take initiative of withdrawing troops even if India is unwilling to withdraw the troops first.

Pakistan says that India had occupied its areas at Siachen in 1984 and has been demanding withdrawal of Indian troops to the previous positions.

The dispute over Siachen has been in focus since an avalanche hit a Pakistan Army camp on April 7th, burying 138 soldiers and civilians under heavy snow.

'We can not unilaterally withdraw troops from Siachen,” President Zardrai told his party supporters in Okara district in Punjab province.

“If India withdraws its troops we will be ready to take similar step,” he said.

The conflict had brought thousands of Pakistani and Indian troops eyeball to eyeball at Siachen in mid-80s. Guns at Siachen have been silent since a ceasefire in 2003 along the Line of Control, which divides Pakistan and India in the disputed Kashmir region.

He said Pakistan is ready to resolve Siachen and all other disputes with India through dialogue. He said if Pakistan unilaterally withdrew troops then the people will criticize the decision.

“India is suffering more losses in Siachen than Pakistan,” President Zardari said.

He also announced to consider opening another trade route with India with the border district in Punjab province, adding he had discussed with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ways to promote trade ties during his visit to India this month.

General Kayani visited Siachen along with President Zardari on Wednesday and highlighted the need to solve the issue so that the two countries can spend money on the welfare of their people.

Foreign Office spokesman Muazzam Khan also said on Thursday Pakistan is not thinking of any unilateral redeployment of troops at Siachen.

“Pakistani has made several proposals to resolve the military standoff on Siachen, including a proposal for mutual re-deployment of troops,'' Khan told reporters. He said Pakistan is ready for talks on the issue but there is no change in its stance.

Islamic Republic News Agency/IRNA NewsCode: 80088286

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