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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Musharraf: Nuclear war unthinkable
Troops sit on the ground near the working border
Thousands of troops have massed in Kashmir
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has played down fears of a nuclear war with India, saying he did not believe either side would fire its missiles.


We've called for a no-war pact with India... We've called for de-nuclearisation of South Asia

Pakistani President
Pervez Musharraf
"I don't think either side is that irresponsible to go to that limit," he told CNN.

"I would even go to the extent of saying one shouldn't even be discussing these things, because any sane individual cannot even think of going into this unconventional war, whatever the pressures," he said.

However, the United Nations has begun withdrawing its staff's families from Pakistan and India as a "precautionary measure" in light of the danger posed by the current stand-off between the two nuclear-capable states over Kashmir.

Several western countries have already advised dependents and non-essential staff to leave both Pakistan and India.

Mediation efforts

Pakistan's Information Minister Nissar Memon said he was saddened by the UN's decision, which was taken at its New York headquarters.

British family at Indian airport
The withdrawal of westerners from India has begun
He said his country had no intention of going to war and suggested the international community should have more faith in its own mediation efforts.

The US is sending Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to the region and Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes to bring the two sides together at a meeting in Kazakhstan next week.

Mr Memon blamed what he called the media hype about a possible nuclear war for causing widespread fear.


Indian soldier at an army camp near the Pakistan border
Rising tension:

1 October 2001:
38 killed in attack on the Kashmir assembly in Srinagar
13 December 2001:
14 killed in attack on the Indian parliament building in Delhi
14 May 2002:
More than 30 killed in attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir
21 May 2002:
Moderate Kashmiri politician Abdul Ghani Lhone shot dead


General Musharraf also gave his backing for a de-escalation of the situation.

"We've called for a no-war pact with India, that there shouldn't be any war," he said.

"We've called for de-nuclearisation of South Asia, so we've called for reduction of forces."

About one million soldiers are massed on either side of the Line of Control which divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India.

The president warned however, that if India attacked, Pakistan would respond robustly.

Fears of war have been growing since a militant attack on an Indian army camp in the state of Jammu and Kashmir killed more than 30 people.

But General Musharraf rejects Indian accusations that his country sponsored the attacks, saying he "would fight militancy in any form".

However, he gave his support for what he called the Kashmiris' "genuine freedom struggle".

Scaling-down

The decision to withdraw UN families has had a mixed reaction in Islamabad, the BBC's Susannah Price reports.

One diplomatic source said UN employees did not want their families to go and blamed pressure from western countries.



Word is starting to spread. Everyone is booking flights to get out this week

Bridget Edwards, British Delhi resident
But other UN staff said they were relieved by the decision, adding there was no reason to keep families in a potentially dangerous region.

Many countries had already warned their citizens to keep away from Pakistan and this week, thousands of foreign nationals from several countries were also advised to leave India.

France, which last week advised its citizens to leave Pakistan, on Saturday recommended that they should also leave India.

Britain and other Western countries have already scaled down their operations in Pakistan following attacks, or threats of attacks, by Islamic militants.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Delhi says many Britons, including high commission staff, are expected to leave the Indian capital later on Saturday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"Many are going but many will stay"
Prof Pushpesh Pant, Jawarharlal Nehru Univ. in Delhi
"On the Indian side there is no fear of a nuclear attack from Pakistan"
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See also:

01 Jun 02 | South Asia
01 Jun 02 | South Asia
01 Jun 02 | UK Politics
31 May 02 | South Asia
30 May 02 | South Asia
29 May 02 | South Asia
28 May 02 | South Asia
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