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Need to coordinate positions on terrorism, Palestinians told

By Amit Baruah

NEW DELHI AUG. 29. The Palestinian Foreign Minister, Nabil Sha'ath, called on the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, and held delegation-level talks with the Minister of State for External Affairs, Vinod Khanna, today.

Dr. Sha'ath, whose visit will be followed by that of the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, in the second week of September, briefed his Indian interlocutors on the current state of the West Asian peace process.

The External Affairs Ministry spokesman told presspersons that an agreement was signed with the Palestinian National Authority and India on training of Palestinian Foreign Service officers. The accord is meant to increase the number of slots available to Palestinian officers at the Foreign Service training institute here.

The spokesman said that during the talks between Dr. Sha'ath and Mr. Vinod Khanna, India proposed that cooperation at the United Nations be increased, especially on the issue of terrorism.

Suggesting that India and the Palestinian Authority coordinate their positions on the terrorism issue, the spokesman claimed that this would be significant given the fact that the annual session of the U.N. General Assembly was coming up next month.

Asked whether the Sharon visit figured in the talks with Dr. Sha'ath, the spokesman said he was not aware of specific details of the talks. "I don't have any information whether anything specific was said on that."

What was India's position on the occupation of Palestinian territories in West Bank and Gaza? "I do not want to go into any specific cases at this stage...but clearly we have always called for peace in that area. We have always made it a point to say that anything causes violence should be abjured."

When pressed on the issue of Israeli occupation, the spokesman said he would like to go into that issue at this stage. "I am not going to go into that issue at this stage because I'm giving you a briefing on what happened this afternoon and, to my knowledge, such issues were not discussed."

The spokesman, however, stressed that India, like the rest of the international community, subscribed to the U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 on the Palestinian issue.

"There is a need to coordinate our positions on terrorism. There are nuances in different parts of the world, according to the situation different people face. But when you are in an international coalition, international battle against terrorism and you have to move forward on a multilateral basis, there is a need to understand each other's position; there is a need to understand where each side is coming from...and then try to come as close as we can."

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