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J&K issue 'ripe' for resolution, says Bush

Source: PTI
May 19, 2008 15:38 IST
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Taking note of 'major and significant developments' in the Indo-Pak ties, US President George W Bush has said the Kashmir issue is 'ripe' for resolution.

The 'Kashmir issue is ripe for solution', Bush was quoted as saying by Pakistani officials during a meeting he had on Sunday with Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum for the Middle East in Egypt.

Bush's remarks came ahead of a meeting between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi in Islamabad on May 21 to review the Composite Dialogue process.

During the hour-long talks in the resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh, Bush said he saw 'major and significant developments' in Pakistan-India relations, but he did not elaborate.

Bush said he was happy to note that the two sides had made a lot of progress in their talks on Kashmir and for comprehensive peace in the region.

Briefing media persons after the Bush-Gilani talks, the Pakistan Prime Minister's Special Assistant on Finance Hina Rabbani Khar and Additional Foreign Secretary Zameer Akram said Bush had appreciated the dialogue process between India and Pakistan and said he had no doubts in his mind that Kashmir was 'ripe for solution'.

Khar said Pakistan's relations with neighbouring countries figured in the discussions between the two leaders, with specific focus on ties with India.

Khar quoted Bush as saying that it was the 'right time for the resolution of the Kashmir issue'.

Besides Pakistan-India relations and bilateral matters, Bush and Gilani discussed the situation in Afghanistan with special reference to the war on terrorism and extremism.

Additional Foreign Secretary Akram said the two leaders exchanged views on strategic relations, covering all aspects, including economic and defence matters. Bush assured Gilani that the strategic approach would take forward the process of building a comprehensive relationship between the two countries.

Gilani told Bush that Pakistan was committed to fighting terrorism and extremism and would continue to cooperate with the international community in efforts to eradicate the menace.

Bush said: "I fully understand that Pakistan is dealing with serious issues and deserves all support from US and the western countries."

A missile strike in Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region by a drone operated by US forces in Afghanistan also figured in the discussions, Gilani said.

Pakistan has protested against the attack, saying military action against militants within its territory could only be taken by Pakistani forces.

Gilani also informed Bush that there had been a change in the system and for the first time in Pakistan's history he was unanimously elected prime minister by Parliament.

His government, he said, would work with the US administration to further improve bilateral relations.

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