Pak: Time ripe to resolve Kashmir issue

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United Nations, Oct 3: The Composite Dialogue Process between India and Pakistan has led to a significant improvement in bilateral relations and the two countries should seize the opportunity for settling all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, Pakistan told the UN General Assembly's high-level annual debate.

Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan, who is leading the Pakistan delegation at the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly, called for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue ''that responds to Kashmiri people's aspirations''.

Mr Khan called for an ambitious international reconstruction plan for Afghanistan, mentioning particularly the Marshall Plan, which was initiated in late 1940s by the United States to reconstruct war-ravaged Europe. ''The plan proved to be highly beneficial to the war-torn parts of the continent,'' he noted.

''No country stands to gain as much as Pakistan from peace and stability in Afghanistan,'' the Foreign Secretary said, voicing support for every initiative that could help rebuilding and national reconciliation in the war-ravaged country.

''The international community also has an important responsibility to help Afghanistan with a Marshall-like programme for reconstruction,'' he said.

Reviewing three decades of conflict in Afghanistan, Mr Khan said recent events have ''impacted on our society, giving rise to terrorism and extremism''.

Pakistan, he said, was fighting Al-Qaeda and other terrorist elements ''with resolve and determination''.

While emphasizing the country's efforts to counter extremism, he spoke out against those who would malign religions and reinforce divisions between Islam and the West. ''Tolerating Islamophobia in the guise of freedom of expression is dangerous,'' he warned.

''More than ever before, in this globalized world, we need understanding, harmony and building of bridges among all cultures and peoples.'' Canada Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier also urged a united international effort to help rebuild Afghanistan.

''International organisations, including the UN, NATO and the World Bank, must work toward this common goal.'' He reviewed Canada"s contribution to Afghanistan, including its participation in the International Security Assistance Force coalition in the country.

''The countries assisting Afghanistan are united in the conviction that there can be no reconstruction without security. Democracy and political stability cannot flourish in a climate of terror,'' Mr Bernier said.


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