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POTO in the nation's interest: Vajpayee

By Our Correspondent

SHIMLA, MARCH 25. In a last-ditch effort to persuade the Opposition, especially the Congress, to give up the ``politically motivated'' resistance to the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance Bill, the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said today such a law was in the nation's vital interest.

Mr. Vajpayee told newspersons here that the Congress, being a national party, had considerable experience fighting cross-border terrorism, and had even brought in the TADA. The BJP, which was then in the Opposition, supported it wholeheartedly because it was convinced that such a law was in the nation's interest. He said he was truly dismayed by the shortsighted and narrow outlook of the Congress leadership on the POTO issue.

The Prime Minister said the Government had already dispelled all misgivings that POTO would be used selectively. The prolonged national debate on this issue had raised public awareness so high that it would not be possible for any Government at the Centre or in the States to misuse it for partisan considerations.

Mr. Vajpayee admitted that the Congress had not been taken into confidence before POTO was introduced. That, he said, had been made an issue. Terming POTO a weapon to fight terrorism, he said the Congress should accept it now.

On the issue of the Trinamool Congress, a constituent of the NDA, deciding not to support POTO, he said the party activists might be fearing action under the same law against them by the West Bengal Government. Mr. Vajpayee said the Congress had Governments in 11 States, and hence it was all the more reason why the party should support POTO.

A wrong message would go to the world if all the parties were not united on this issue of eradicating terrorism by passing POTO, he said.

Rehabilitation in Gujarat

On the situation in Gujarat, Mr. Vajpayee said a concerted effort was on by the State Government, all political parties, voluntary and community-based groups to start an effective programme for the social and economic rehabilitation of the victims of the recent communal violence. He said Gujarat had an exemplary tradition of social work _ by Gandhian organisations, religious bodies, NGOs and even business groups _ without consideration of caste and creed.

The Prime Minister, who will be visiting Gujarat to take stock of the situation, appealed to all groups to take up rehabilitation work.

Asked whether the Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, would be replaced, now that the National Human Rights Commission had criticised him for the incidents in the State, Mr. Vajpayee, said, ``We are waiting for the full and final report''.

Nuclear war ruled out

PTI, UNI report:

Mr. Vajpayee allayed fears that the current Indo-Pak. tension could trigger a nuclear conflict, but asserted that the country was prepared for any eventuality and ruled out the immediate withdrawal of troops from the border.

``There is no possibility or threat of a nuclear war. India had already declared that it would not be the first to use nuclear weapons and Pakistan has also expressed similar views. I do not see any threat of a nuclear war,'' he said.

Asked whether he saw the possibility of outbreak of a war in view of the prevailing border tension, he said the country was prepared for any eventuality.

On the withdrawal of troops from the border, Mr. Vajpayee said, ''There is no such proposal at present'' and recalled that the decision to deploy forces was taken by a high level committee which included representatives from the three services.

About a resumption of the stalled dialogue with Pakistan, the Prime Minister said, ``We will talk only when a conducive atmosphere is created. Everyday violence and clashes are taking place. Jawans are being killed and civilians are being targeted.''

Asked whether the Government would seek any amendment to the Constitution to find a solution to the vexed Ayodhya issue in the wake of such a demand by the VHP, Mr. Vajpayee said, ``There is no need for a change in the Constitution.''

Mr. Vajpayee who arrived in Shimla yesterday to attend a public rally to mark four years of Bharatiya Janata Party- Himachal Vikas Congress rule in Himachal Pradesh, left for New Delhi later today.

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