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SLUG: 2-306899 Pakistan India (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=8/27/2003

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PAKISTAN INDIA (L-O)

NUMBER=2-306899

BYLINE=MICHAEL KITCHEN

DATELINE=ISLAMABAD

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: India and Pakistan are moving ahead to improve relations, despite harsh words over Monday's fatal bombings in Bombay. V-O-A's Michael Kitchen reports that talks to restore air links between the two countries are under way.

TEXT: Officials from the two governments opened the air-links negotiations in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, in the hope of resuming direct flights.

Air travel between the neighboring countries was cut after India accused Pakistan of aiding a terrorist attack on its Parliament in New Delhi in 2001. The issue almost led to war, with the two nuclear-armed rivals massing troops in the mountainous Kashmir district.

During the past few months, relations have been on the mend. The two sides restored diplomatic relations recently and have resumed weekly bus service.

Negotiations to resume air travel are going ahead, despite two car bombings that killed at least 50 people Monday in Bombay. Some Indian officials have suggested the blasts may be the work of Pakistani extremist groups.

Following the attacks, Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani accused Pakistan of conducting a "war of terror" on his country.

Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan dismisses the charges.

/// KHAN ACT ///

We reject his baseless allegations. Pakistan is engaged in the "war on terrorism" and not the "war of terrorism." Mr. Advani obviously did not get his prepositions right.

/// END ACT ///

While Pakistan has condemned the attacks, Mr. Advani said the condemnation was a "mere formality," and that Islamabad should show its sincerity by turning over 19 terror suspects previously demanded by India.

But Mr. Khan says the Indian leader's demand for the suspects is not realistic, as there is no evidence they are in Pakistan. He adds that Mr. Advani's comments will not hold back progress toward better relations. (SIGNED)

NEB/HK/MK/KPD



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