NATIONAL

`Advani's statement on confederation a mirage'

ISLAMABAD, MARCH 3 . Pakistan has characterised the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani's remarks that India and Pakistan should consider forming a confederation as a "mirage."

At the weekly news briefing, the Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan, made light of the suggestion and said that instead of talking about such things, leaders of both countries should focus on the ground realities.

"It is a mirage. Let the leaders of the two countries focus on the ground realities. The ground realities are that India and Pakistan are sovereign independent states. This reality is irreversible," Mr. Khan said.

The response to Mr. Advani's suggestion is in sharp contrast to Pakistan's reaction to the desire expressed by the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for common currency in the region. Islamabad had said that it could be considered only after both countries sorted out their differences, including Kashmir.

Favouring a confederation of India and Pakistan, Mr. Advani had on Sunday, in New Delhi, said that "we want that both the countries should live in peace and harmony and even people in Pakistan are in favour of that."

Mr. Khan argued that the two countries should accord priority to resolving contentious issues through the composite dialogue process. ``Let us invest time, energy resolving the thorniest issues which divide nations," he said.

On Pakistan's response to the French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin's statement that France supported India in getting the permanent membership of the U.N. Security Council, Mr. Khan said Pakistan opposed India joining the U.N. Security Council. It did not want new centres of privileges to be created in the U.N. While Pakistan supported the efforts to democratise the U.N. set-up, it was opposed to expansion of the permanent membership of the Security Council.