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World - Asia/Pacific

Leaders of Pakistan, India pledge to work toward peace

Declaration covers nuclear threat, Kashmir conflict

leaders
Sharif, left, and Vajpayee at a news conference in Lahore on Sunday

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CNN's Kasra Naji reports on Vajpayee's visit
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February 21, 1999
Web posted at: 11:25 a.m. EST (1625 GMT)

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- The prime ministers of India and Pakistan pledged Sunday to cooperate more closely to ease tensions that have been brewing between the two countries for half a century.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said they would work to reduce the risk of nuclear conflict and work harder on their key dispute over Kashmir in a joint statement issued after a day of meetings in Lahore, Pakistan.

"We shall take immediate steps to reduce the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons and discuss concepts and doctrines with a view to elaborating measures for confidence-building in the nuclear and conventional fields, and for the prevention of conflict," read the statement.

The nuclear issue came to the forefront last May, after both countries carried out underground nuclear tests and declared themselves nuclear powers.

Promise to 'intensify efforts'

On the thorny issue of Kashmir, the two governments will "intensify their efforts to resolve all issues," said the statement, which was termed the "Lahore Declaration".

India, which claims all of Kashmir, controls two-thirds of the region, while Pakistan controls the rest.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since British rule of the subcontinent ended in 1947, and two of the wars have been over Kashmir.

The two countries also committed to stay out of each other's affairs. Both sides routinely accuse the other of fomenting unrest in the other's territory.

Sharif and Vajpayee said they would hold foreign minister-level talks, signaling a boost in peace negotiations which have made little progress since they began last October.

Vajpayee's Pakistan visit was the first by an Indian premier since the nuclear tests were conducted last May.

Reporter Kasra Naji and Reuters contributed to this report.


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