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Pakistan leader offers to end ban on Indian flights

Friday, March 8, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- President Gen. Pervez Musharraf offered Thursday to lift a ban on flights from India if its neighboring rival did the same, suggesting the move would be a step toward easing friction between the south Asian nations.

The Pakistani leader's offer came amid months of tensions that began escalating after a Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament -- an attack India blames in part on Pakistan's spy agency. Hundreds of thousands of troops have been deployed to the border as both sides braced for trouble.

"There is always a danger of escalation when troops are standing 'eyeball-to-eyeball,' " Musharraf said.

Musharraf imposed the flight ban on Dec. 27 in retaliation for India's decision to ban Pakistan's national airline from entering its airspace after the Parliament attack.

The ban was part of a series of tit-for-tat sanctions between the nuclear rivals, who have a long-standing dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Musharraf's remarks came at the opening ceremony of a conference of South Asian top ministers that is meant to promote cooperation in the region.

Musharraf said he was "ready to remove" the flight restrictions.

"I hope the next time we meet, we travel shorter and faster," he said.


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