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|February 23, 1999||
Clinton welcomes Lahore summit
In an unusual move, US President Bill Clinton has welcomed the Lahore summit between Prime Ministers A B Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharief, promising all help to the two countries in promoting progress in the region.
''I commend the two prime minister for demonstrating courage and leadership by coming together and addressing difficult issues that have long divided their countries, '' he said in a statement issued in Washington last night.
The US president, who is keen to visit the region, noted the commitment by the two leaders ''to intensify their efforts on key matters, including containing their competition in nuclear arms, preventing nuclear or conventional conflict between them, resolving territorial disputes including resolving territorial disputes including Jammu and Kashmir, fighting terrorism, promoting political freedom and human rights and working together to improve the lives of their citizen through economic growth.
''South asia -- and, indeed, the entire world -- will benefit if India and Pakistan promptly turn these commitments into concrete progress," Clinton said, adding, ''We will continue our own efforts to work with India and Pakistan to promote progress in the region.''
Earlier, a State Department official, commenting on the summit, said, ''We are pleased they have discussed steps to address nuclear concerns, including confidence building measures and methods to avoid accidental conflicts.''
''We also commend the attention paid in the Lahore declaration to upgrading quality of life of people of India and Pakistan,'' he added.
The official said, ''This demonstrates a clear understanding by two leaders that economic growth and social progress are essential to the future of their countries, as are all countries around the world."
The State Department official also made it clear that the summit had taken place at the initiative of India and Pakistan and the two prime ministers deserved ''full credit for the successful meeting.''
Apparently, he issued the clarification in view of reports in certain sections of the press alleging that the two leaders had agreed to meet in Lahore under US pressure.
However, one of the benchmarks that the US had set up for its non-proliferation dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad envisaged normalisation of relations between the two South Asian rivals.
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