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June 21, 2000
General admits US sought Kargil withdrawal
General Anthony Zinni, commander of the US central command, has acknowledged that his country had, to an extent, persuaded Pakistan to pull back from Kargil during last year's conflict and stop supporting militants in Kashmir.
The general, who had visited both India and Pakistan as a special envoy of President Bill Clinton during the conflict to defuse the situation, however, hastened to add that the decision to withdraw was entirely "their [Pakistan's] own".
General Zinni was in Abu Dhabi yesterday as part of a pre-retirement tour of the gulf region.
His comments assume significance, coming as they do at a time when an intense debate is on in Pakistan as to who had masterminded the Kargil conflict.
Nawaz Sharif, who was Pakistan's prime minister at the time of the conflict, has claimed that he was kept in the dark by the army about its Kargil plan.
The present military government, headed by General Pervez Musharraf, has termed Sharif's statement as "ill-founded, factually incorrect and containing wild accusations against the army".
Some prominent Pakistani politicians have suggested that the deposed premier be tried for treason for his comments on the Kargil conflict.
When a reported asked General Zinni if he had been sent by President Clinton to Pakistan to pressurise Sharif into withdrawing from Kargil, he said, "The US was concerned and feared that the situation could escalate into something extremely dangerous for the region".
Khaleej Times quoted General Zinni as saying, "Both sides were beginning to mobilise and escalate, obviously both sides possessed weapons of mass destruction."
He said his role as envoy of the president was to ask the Pakistani prime minister to withdraw from Kargil and use his influence on militants in Kashmir to stop their action cease the situation in Kargil.
He said, "I talked to Mr Sharif and the chief of staff and convinced them to take steps to ease tensions and to withdraw from Kargil. They agreed. There was no interest I found in the Pakistanis to see the situation escalate beyond control from either side and they co-operated, making the decision on their own," he said.
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