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LAHORE, Dec 26: Iranian President Seyed Mohammad Khatami has expressed his concern over the atrocities being committed against the people of occupied Kashmir, urging both India and Pakistan to resolve the dispute through sincere dialogue.

He was speaking at a civic reception arranged in his honour by the Lahore district government at the Shalamar Gardens here on Wednesday.

Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi presented a welcome address in the presence of Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Punjab Governor Khalid Maqbool and PML-Q parliamentary party leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain.

People from all walks of life gave a rousing welcome to the Iranian president on his arrival at the Shalamar Garden. Two smartly dressed children presented him bouquets and national anthems of both Pakistan and Iran were played.

Mr Khatami waved to the people including women and children, who were carrying flags of Iran. Members of the provincial assembly, the district government and a number of Iranians in Pakistan also attended the function.

“As a human being, a Muslim, and an Iranian, I want to say that the difficulties of the Kashmiris and atrocities against them are intolerable for us. And I do hope that the Kashmir dispute would be resolved as per aspirations of its people,” the president said.

He called upon both India and Pakistan to take the Kashmir dispute to its logical conclusion through meaningful and sincere negotiations.

Mr Khatami said the world was disturbed over terrorism and bloodshed, and it now required peace, love, and sympathy instead of antagonism. Nevertheless, real peace could be brought about only through tolerance and collective justice, he said.

He said the world was now tired of terrorism. And the Islamic World was calling for mutual dialogue instead of clash of civilizations.

The president urged the Ummat to forge unity. He said: “We do not want to use the unity against anybody. Instead, we intend to employ it for the resolution of our problems. We do not also think of ignoring the West, nor do we wish to be dazzled by its glitter and forget ourselves.”

He said Islam introduced the best culture to the world and never adopted a policy of confrontation with other civilizations.

Mr Khatami said the Ummat was confronting two enemies at the moment. Without naming America or any other country, he said the forces that wanted to establish their authority in the region and over the Islamic world were the number one enemy.

“And to implement these nefarious designs these forces had first portrayed communism as an adversary and were now declaring Islam as a threat. We are now hearing the echoes of war against Islam under the title of renewed Crusades,” he said.

Mr Khatami said the second enemy was within the Ummat, which it wanted to divide by using a limited frame of reference. “Islam teaches broad-mindedness and affection for others. There is no way but to use these teachings — which were also propagated by Allama Iqbal — to confront those taking Islam towards narrow-mindedness.”

At present, the Ummat lacked unity on the basis of the common belief in the oneness of God. The Ummat required a meaningful unity which should not be used against each other. The Ummat was also required to pay heed to backwardness, hunger, poverty, and illiteracy. The Muslims required unity and hard work for progress. And they should also progress while concentrating on the rule of people, and education, the president said.

He said the West had gained a lot in the past through its culture and norms that it imposed on the Third World to meet its own ends. But, still, its imperialist policies and economic system brought hardships to the people in the Third World. “Now is the time to get united and progress using the understanding of the true spirit of Islam,” he said.

Mr Khatami said that in the past, Allama Iqbal and in recent times, Imam Khomeini, had propagated true Islam. Imam Khomeini had asked the Muslims to first understand themselves and then fight against imperialism. He also asked them to plan their own development.

He said the people of Iran and Pakistan were one and the same and should further strengthen their ties.

The president thanked the chief minister and the people for according him a warm welcome. He said he was speaking to them on the birthday of the Quaid-i-Azam who had fought against tyranny and imperialist forces.

Mr Khatami paid rich tribute to Allama Iqbal and said his message was like a shining sun in the dark nights. “We can rid ourselves of all ills and have a bright future by following his teachings.”

He said Allama Iqbal did not accept the impact of the West which had overawed various Muslim thinkers in the past . He understood the West and then stood against it. He studied Western nationalism and then instilled Islamic nationalism among the Muslims. He also did not ignore the positive aspects of the West but still moved with the spirit of Islam.

The president said the best thing in the world was Islam with whose blessings Pakistan was created. He said Lahore too was a centre of true Islamic teachings in the 19th century. Like in Iran, a new thinking developed in Lahore during that era, he said.

Chaudhry Pervaiz said Pakistan and Iran shared common culture and traditions, and their people shared a lasting bond of friendship. He said peace and prosperity in the region was linked to world peace and progress, hoping that the two countries would continue fighting jointly against poverty and oppression, providing a beacon to the Ummat.

The chief minister asked the president to convey the love of the people of Pakistan to his own people and hoped that his visit would go a long way in building bilateral relations.

He said Lahore and Isphahan would soon be declared sister cities.

Earlier, District Nazim Mian Amer Mehmood presented the key of Lahore to Mr Khatami. The chief minister presented him with the names of Allah written on leather by renowned Pakistani calligraphists.