Pakistan matches India's sanctions

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Associated Press WriterISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan barred Indian airliners from using its airspace and ordered half of India's embassy staff sent home, matching sanctions announced by India on Thursday amid escalating tensions.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan announced the steps on state television, saying Pakistan was "disappointed" by India's moves and underlining that Islamabad wants to resolve the crisis through talks.

The military forces of the two South Asian nuclear powers have been massing at their shared border for days. Fears have risen over the prospect of a new conflict between the two countries after India accused Pakistan of sponsoring a Dec. 13 suicide attack on Parliament in New Delhi that killed 14 people. Islamabad denies the charge.

Khan also said Pakistan will limit the movement of remaining Indian diplomats to the capital, Islamabad.

The air ban is mostly symbolic. Indian Airlines stopped its only flight to Pakistan -- to the port city of Karachi -- last month, and international flights out of India have long used routes avoiding Pakistani airspace.

India planned to cut its embassy staff by half as part of the sanctions announced Thursday. Its overflight ban was due to begin Tuesday, and Khan said Pakistan's would start at the same time.

"We have been disappointed by the one-sided Indian action. It will create more tension," Khan said. "Our desire is that the matter should be resolved through talks, but these Indian steps will further complicate the situation. Therefore, we are taking reciprocal steps."

He said all diplomatic problems should be resolved through talks.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell made phone calls to leaders on both sides, urging them to pull back from confrontation and resolve their differences through dialogue.

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