We cannot interfere in Kashmir issue: Blair

The British PM reiterated that it is best for India and Pakistan to resolve the contentious issue bilaterally.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 21:59 IST

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has reiterated that it is best for India and Pakistan to resolve the contentious Kashmir issue bilaterally as "we cannot interfere".

"This issue is very important for both the countries, and we cannot interfere; we should help in a partnership of India and Pakistan," he told Pakistan's private channel Geo TV in an interview.

In the text of the interview published byaPakistan daily, there was no reference to the role of the people of Kashmir in the long-pending dispute's resolution.

Respecting the "wishes of the Kashmiris" has been the customary stand of the British government and the Western countries in general in the past.

Talking about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, Blair ruled out any "time limits" on the British military presence in the troubled country, saying the troops would stay as long as the government of President Hamid Karzai wants it there.

"We should stay to help Afghans till they have their own security in place so that they can work out their own future," Blair said.

Reminded that even five years after 9/11 Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar were still at large, Blair said: "We continue to seek out Osama bin Laden and Mulla Omar but the important thing is to support the reconstruction and political development in the country."

In regard to the phenomenon of "home-grown extremism" in Britain that has come to light in the last few years, Blair said: "I think this ideology of extremism is exported all around the world.

Britain is not the only country with home-grown terrorism. There are some other countries in Europe too, which are having the same problems."

However, he emphasised that a large majority of Muslims in Britain and all across Europe were moderates.

"You have got to win the minds and hearts of the people as well as to make them secure, and that is what I think we are doing now," Blair said.

Regarding the death penalty for the former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, Blair said: "It's the decision that the Iraqi authorities will take, but we are against the death penalty in whatever context."

First Published: Nov 20, 2006 15:20 IST