- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 22, 2004

NEW YORK — Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf yesterday offered “strategic stability” to neighboring India, and said it is now time to reach an agreement on Kashmir.

Speaking directly to newly elected Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the second day of the U.N. General Assembly session, Gen. Musharraf said, “I would like to convey to him that this is the moment for peace. We must not allow it to slip away.”

Noting three wars between Pakistan and India and a 2002 confrontation over Kashmir, Gen. Musharraf said, “There is no military solution to our problems.”

The Indian and Pakistani leaders are to meet on the sidelines of the session tomorrow, for the first substantive talks on Kashmir since Mr. Singh was elected in May.

“Now that negotiations are entering the difficult stage of grappling with solutions to previously irreconcilable disputes, Pakistan hopes that India shows the same sincerity, flexibility and boldness that Pakistan will demonstrate,” Gen. Musharraf said.

Gen. Musharraf and Mr. Singh sat down separately with President Bush while he was in New York this week, and agreed on the need to make progress on the three-decade-long dispute that is Kashmir.

Gen. Musharraf also called on fellow leaders yesterday to ease global tensions by trying to ease conflicts of concern to Muslims. He named Kashmir, the “tragedy of Palestine,” and the “serious” situation in Iraq.

The Pakistani leader called for Iraqi forces and police to expand and assume more responsibility for internal security, and suggested that Muslim countries could play a role in bringing peace to Iraq.

Not all speakers at the generally genteel General Assembly session struck as optimistic a tone.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe lashed out at the leaders of the United States and Britain, using his time at the podium to demonize Mr. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“We are now being coerced to accept and believe that a new political-cum-religious doctrine has arisen; namely, that ‘there is but one political god, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair is his prophet,’” Mr. Mugabe said.

With his mocking paraphrase of the key Muslim declaration of faith, Mr. Mugabe drew a rare round of lighthearted applause in the General Assembly chambers.

The deputy prime minister of Lebanon, Issam Fares, defended the presence of Syrian soldiers in Lebanon, and said they were deployed at Beirut’s request.

Liberia’s transitional leader, Charles Gyude Bryant, yesterday signed eight international human rights agreements.

Shortly afterward, Mr. Bryant told the General Assembly that the transitional government continues to disarm militias, conform to international laws and is working to restore peace to Liberia.

“Liberia has gone through 15 years of violent conflicts,” he said. “Liberians have finally resolved to choose the path of peace and stay on it.”

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