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December 29, 1999
Dropping demands makes no difference: Govt
The government says the dropping of two demands by the hijackers has made no difference to the crisis, which entered its sixth day at 1655 on Wednesday.
The hijackers of Flight 814 are believed to have dropped two of their demands -- the demand for $ 200 million and the body of slain terrorist Sajjad Afghani, it is learnt today. Sources said the Taleban regime had asked the hijackers to drop these demands on the ground that they were "unIslamic." The hijackers are still asking for the release of Harkat-ul Ansar secretary general Maulana Masood Azhar and 35 other militants in Jammu and Kashmir jails.
"We are taking the demands in totality. We are not counting the number of demands," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan told the media after a Cabinet meeting. "It does not make a material change in the situation."
The government did not indicate any urgency on resolving the crisis, despite a threat by the Taleban foreign minister that the Indian Airlines Airbus would be asked to leave Kandahar if the issue was not peacefully and swiftly settled. Mahajan said the Indian government had not officially been briefed by the Taleban about such a deadline.
"We are in such a situation that no timeframe can be fixed. We want to end this at the earliest," the minister said. "There is nothing to show they (the Taliban) are running out of patience. We are grateful that they are extending co-operation.''
Earlier, the Cabinet held another meeting to review the latest situation on the hijack crisis. Mahajan said the government had conveyed its response on the demands to the Indian negotiating team at Kandahar.
''An appropriate response has been conveyed,'' he said.
Several ministers expressed concern over the demands of the hijackers and said the crisis had now turned into a ''battle of patience.''
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