July 1999 News

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Kashmiri separatists tell US to back out of row

6 July 1999
Reuters

SRINAGAR, India: Kashmiri separatist groups on Tuesday condemned U.S. involvement in diplomacy over the Kashmir conflict, accusing it of trying to impose its will.

The Hizbul Mujahideen, one of nearly a dozen groups fighting for Kashmiri independence or union with Pakistan, said it was impossible for militants occupying strategic heights in Indian-held Kashmir to obey U.S. calls for them to withdraw.

"No country has the right to suggest the withdrawal of mujahideen (holy warriors) who have launched an armed struggle against Indian forces to liberate Kashmir," it said in a statement.

"The withdrawal of mujahideen from Kargil is impossible," it added, referring to an area where militants have dug in. "America is trying to impose its will on every country, but we are not slaves of America and we will not accept American slavery," the group said.

India has been waging an air and ground offensive since May to oust militants holed up on mountains on India's side of the de facto border with Pakistan in the disputed Himalayan region.

India says Pakistan is behind the incursion, which has brought the rivals to their worst standoff in almost 30 years.

On Sunday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and U.S. President Bill Clinton agreed to take "concrete steps" to restore the 1972 military control line dividing Kashmir. U.S. officials said the agreement meant the militants should withdraw.

The chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference -- a separatist grouping of Kashmiri religious and political interests -- also lashed out at the United States on Tuesday.

It objected to Washington's "reconciliatory attitude".

"The U.S. considers India as a business centre and does not want to annoy it," Syed Ali Shah Geelani told a crowd on the outskirts of Srinagar, summer capital of Indian-held Kashmir.

Despite Sunday's agreement, Pakistan insists it has no control over Kashmiri militants fighting against Indian rule.

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