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Friday, June 11, 1999 Published at 09:01 GMT 10:01 UK

World: South Asia

Pakistan: Mutilation claims 'ridiculous'

The Wagah border crossing salute continues - despite Kashmir

Pakistan has strongly denied allegations that the bodies of six Indian soldiers in Kashmir were mutilated by its soldiers before being handed back.

Kashmir Conflict
The military spokesman in Islamabad, Brigadier Rashid Qureshi, described the claim as "ridiculous", and said there would have been no reason for the Pakistani army to mutilate bodies.

Owen Bennet-Jones in Islamabad on Pakistan's denial
Brigadier Qureshi said the Indian soldiers died over three weeks ago in a clash on the Line of Control.

He said the place where they were killed was particularly inaccessible, but that Pakistani troops had only been able to reach the bodies with difficulty.

Mike Wooldridge reports: "India isn't speaking about what happened until after the post-mortem"
The fact that Pakistan had made the effort to recover the bodies and return them to India was an act of goodwill, he said.

India has declined to give details of the mutilations until full post-mortems have been carried out, but has denounced the action as an ''outrageous violation of international conventions''.

Diplomacy gears up

With the Pakistani Foreign Minister, Sartaj Aziz, due in Delhi on Saturday, India has reiterated that the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir is not negotiable.

During a visit to Lucknow, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said that Mr Aziz would be told that infiltrators in Indian-administered Kashmir should withdraw.

"Pakistan's obvious design is to raise a debate over the LoC, but I can assure you that they will not succeed . . .", he said.

Mr Aziz is on a brief trip to China in advance of the talks in Delhi.

However, he has said mediation by the Chinese over Kashmir was unlikely.

"I don't think the Indians are very keen on mediation at this stage, but China can always play its role in advising restraint, trying to resolve issues through dialogue."

Weather hinders operations

Bad weather hindered operations by the Indian air force in Kashmir for the second day running on Friday.

A few operations were carried out in the Kargil and Drass sectors, although the military authorities Indian ground forces did not need much air support.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

In another development, the leaders of states in north-eastern India have expressed concern about the transfer of military units out of their areas to Kashmir.

The chief ministers of Assam, Tripura and Manipur said they were worried that the reduction in troop levels would encourage militants in their regions to step up attacks.

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik, reporting from Calcutta, quotes military officials as saying that at least four Border Security Force battalions are being moved, along with some battalions of the central reserve police.

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