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Geelani Rejects Offer for Pakistan Visit

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geeani, who leads a breakaway group of Jammu and Kashmir's Hurriyat Conference, has decided not to travel on the bus service linking the divided parts of Kashmir, Indo-Asian News Service reported.

Geelani was reacting to Pakistan's invitation to separatist leaders from Jammu and Kashmir to travel on the bus service June 2.

Addressing a news conference in Srinagar at the conclusion of a meeting of his faction of the Hurriyat, Geelani said: "Our group has decided not to undertake the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad journey on June 2 because it is our agreed opinion that the problem lies in Kashmir and not in Azad Kashmir.

"It is therefore important that we look for solutions here instead of finding them somewhere else."
The moderate faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has already announced a five-member delegation that will travel on the bus.

"I have no problem traveling with any other separatist leader. If these leaders who have decided to visit Azad Kashmir are able to get a zadi (independence) with them from Pakistan, I will wait to welcome them with garlands," said Geelani.

Geelani said the Hurriyat group he heads had deliberated on the issue of undertaking the journey. While some constituents were in favor of such a move, others opposed it.

"Ultimately a consensus emerged and we decided not to undertake the journey to Pakistan."

The firebrand Kashmiri separatist leader, while thanking Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf for extending him the invitation, said that Islamabad was "giving major concessions to India on Kashmir."

Meanwhile, the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) headed by Yasin Malik has also accepted the Pakistan invitation and announced that a 17-member delegation would travel to Muzaffarabad.

(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2005)

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