SRINAGAR, July 30: The All Parties Hurriyat Conference on Tuesday ruled out taking part in elections in occupied Kashmir, days after the United States had said the polls could be a first step to easing tensions.

“We will not participate in an election which is for governance... governance does not figure in our agenda,” Abdul Gani Bhat, APHC chairman said.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell, on a peace mission to Pakistan and India during the weekend, said he welcomed New Delhi’s pledge to hold fair elections in the held state.

Elections can be a “first step in a broader process that begins to address Kashmiri grievances and leads India and Pakistan back to dialogue,” Powell said in New Delhi on Sunday.

“Let the United Nations organize elections...for a specific purpose which is obviously a permanent settlement of the dispute of Jammu and Kashmir (and) we will positively, actively participate in the process,” Bhat said.

Several previous elections in occupied Kashmir have been dogged by allegations of rigging. Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has promised the coming poll will be free of irregularities.

The Hizb-ul-Mujahideen has warned that anyone taking part in the elections would be viewed as a traitor.—Reuters

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