March 1999 News

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Annan Pleased with PM-Sharif Lahore Meet

4th March 1999
The Pioneer
By: Suman Guha Mozumder

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has said it is "very encouraging" to note that Indian and Pakistani leaders are talking to each other and making public commitments to resolve outstanding issues, including Kashmir.

In response to a question during a press conference at the United Nations correspondents club here, Annan said he was particularly pleased with the recent meeting at Lahore between Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.

"I hope that this only a beginning and that the dialogue will continue and we will see results sooner rather than later," Annan said. During his first press conference this year, Annan touched upon a whole range of issues, including establishment of peace, UN peace-keeping operations in various parts of the world and the need to step up efforts to find peaceful solutions in trouble spots like Iraq.

Annan indicated that he might soon visit South Asia. Asked if he would keep away from the region till bilateral dialogues in countries like India, Pakistan and Afghanistan were over, he said, "I don't think that it is directly tied to the talks which are going on". He was alluding to the dialogue between India and Pakistan as well as talks between the Taliban in Afghanistan and Lakhdar Brahimi, Annan's Special Envoy for Kabul.

"I would hope that it (the visit) will be sooner rather than later, but I cannot give you a date yet," Annan added.

The Secretary General was reportedly scheduled to visit both India and Pakistan late last year but cancelled the trip due to sudden preoccupation with Angola and other troubled spots.

A good part of Annan's press conference was spent on the issue of Iraq as he fielded questions on the role of the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) and the alleged American use of the organisation to plan military intelligence in Baghdad.

Replying to a question, Annan said there was no doubt that the allegations that some of the U.N. members were drawn into espionage work will make disarmament regimes and future efforts difficult if governments believe this kind of thing can happen. "But I still believe that the (Security) Council will have to draw the right lessons and assess the situation," he added.

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