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We want talks with Pak. as soon as possible: PM

Photo: V. Sudershan

The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, being seen off by his Cabinet colleagues before he left for the three-nation tour at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on Tuesday.

New Delhi May 27. The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, today declared that India wanted to start talks with Pakistan "as soon as possible", but made it clear that for a meaningful dialogue cross-border terrorism should end and the terror infrastructure dismantled.

Before embarking on a three-nation tour, Mr. Vajpayee said that India would take "more" confidence-building measures to carry forward its peace initiatives with Pakistan.

"Some steps have already been taken and more will be taken," he told reporters at the Indira Gandhi airport here, a day after India announced its decisions to resume the Delhi-Lahore bus service and release 130 Pakistani prisoners in the Indian jails.

Replying to questions on when the two countries would resume talks in the wake of several peace initiatives taken by New Delhi, Mr. Vajpayee said "we want it to be as soon as possible". Mr. Vajpayee, who left for Germany on the first leg of his eight-day tour that would also take him to Russia and France, said he was confident that an atmosphere would be created for Indo-Pak talks to begin.

Mr. Vajpayee, who has been specially invited by the French President, Jacques Chirac, for a "broader dialogue" on June 1, ahead of the G-8 summit in the French Alpine town of Evian on the Franco-Swiss border, will hold bilateral meetings with various heads of State and Government there.

Asked whether he would be meeting the U.S. President, George W. Bush, either in St. Petersburg in Russia or in Evian, he said "I do not know about any such meeting at the moment".

On arrival at the Tegel Airport, Mr. Vajpayee, who is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the External Affairs Minister, Yashwant Sinha, and the Commerce and Industry Minister, Arun Jaitley, was accorded a red carpet welcome. The German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, will give a formal reception with military honour to him tomorrow.

The Prime Minister has a hectic schedule tomorrow when he will meet Mr. Schroeder, who will host a lunch for him. Bilateral, political and economic ties will come up for review during the meeting. Mr. Vajpayee is also expected to brief the Chancellor on his latest peace initiative with Pakistan. — PTI

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