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India's Vajpayee to Visit Islamabad, says Pakistani Minister - 2003-05-06

Pakistan says it has received what it describes as a positive reply to Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali's invitation for his Indian counterpart, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to visit Islamabad.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan refused to give any details of the response.

"I will confine myself to saying that it is positive, it calls for a carefully considered dialogue process," he said. "We will look at that letter and then will move from there."

Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali sent the invitation last week, asking Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to visit Pakistan to resume a peace dialogue between the South Asian rivals.

The move followed Mr. Vajpayee's announcement last month that he wants to start a round of talks to settle all outstanding issues with Pakistan. The Indian leader also has moved to restore full diplomatic ties with Islamabad.

Mr. Khan at the Foreign Ministry says Pakistan hopes that a dialogue starts soon at any level.

"We want to enter into a dialogue process with a positive frame of mind. We want to discuss all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir," he said. "What we want is that the negotiating process should start in earnest."

The peace moves are being hailed by the international community. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is to visit the region this week and is expected to discuss the latest developments with Indian and Pakistani leaders.

Mr. Khan also reiterated that Pakistan developed nuclear weapons in response to what it considers a military threat from India. He says Islamabad would seek to rid South Asia of nuclear weapons, if India agreed to do so.

"We were forced into this situation because of Indian nuclear ambitions unfortunately," he said. "So as far as Pakistan's position is concerned, if India is ready to de-nuclearize, we would be very happy to de-nuclearize."

Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee has held two failed summits with Pakistan since 1999. Both times, the talks deadlocked over the Kashmir dispute, which has caused two wars between the two countries.

Control over the predominately Muslim territory is split between India and Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of supporting insurgents fighting to end Indian control over the region, a charge Islamabad denies.