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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 20:07 GMT
Vajpayee firm on Ayodhya
The all-party meeting in Delhi
The meeting was convened on the opposition demand
India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee says his government will not allow any construction on or near the disputed site in the northern town of Ayodhya.

The assurance came at a meeting of leaders from all the main political parties in Delhi on Tuesday.

The meeting was convened by Mr Vajpayee to allay fears that Hindu hardliners would try to alter the present status of the disputed area.

Hundreds of militant Hindu volunteers have gathered in the town where they plan to build a temple on the site of a mosque which was destroyed nine years ago.

Hindu hardliners say the site is the birth place of Lord Rama and they should be allowed to construct a temple dedicated to one of Hinduism's principal deities.

The destruction of the Ayodhya mosque in 1992 sparked nationwide violence in which more than 2,000 people were killed.

Sensitive issue

The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Pramod Mahajan, told journalists that the government is aware of the sensitivity of the issue.

Hindu holymen marching to Delhi
Concern marks the gathering of Hindu hardliners

He said the prime minister favours a negotiated or a judicial solution of the dispute.

Mr Mahajan said 14,000 Hindu hardliners were present in Ayodhya at present but they were away from the disputed site.

He said the central government has deployed paramilitary troops in the area and if required, more troops would be sent.

Opposition concerns

Opposition leaders said the government should not allow the gathering of Hindu hardliners to grow in Ayodhya.

Some leaders said the government should request the Supreme Court for an early judgement on the dispute.

About 30 representatives of political parties, including the Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, attended the meeting.

Earlier in the day, there were angry scenes in both houses of the parliament over the issue.

MPs in the lower house forced an adjournment even after the prime minister said he was ready to debate the issue.

See also:

11 Feb 02 | South Asia
BJP faces state poll test
02 Feb 02 | South Asia
BJP 'will back courts' over temple
14 Jan 02 | South Asia
India launches new Ayodhya initiative
06 Dec 01 | South Asia
Ayodhya anniversary raises tensions
18 Oct 01 | South Asia
Hindu hardliners' Ayodhya strategy
18 Oct 01 | South Asia
Ayodhya temple security stepped up
10 Apr 01 | South Asia
Minister testifies on Ayodhya attack
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