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US Declines To Criticize India

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    US Declines To Criticize India

    US Declines To Criticize India

    WASHINGTON (AP) - Despite its strong opposition to making concessions to hijackers, the State Department on Monday declined to criticize India's decision to release three Muslim militants to secure freedom for 155 passengers who were held captive aboard an Indian Airlines flight.

    ``The United States cannot second-guess or judge how the Indian government handled the hijacking,'' the department said.

    ``This incident presented very difficult decisions for the Indian government. Obviously they weighed all the options after days of negotiations and rigorous domestic debate.''

    The U.S. position was outlined by a department official who under the ground rules could not be identified by name.

    For years, U.S. policy on terrorist actions is to make no concessions to the perpetrators or to make deals with them.

    The Indian Airlines hijacking ended Friday at the airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan, eight days after it began during a flight from Nepal to New Delhi. India won freedom for the hostages by agreeing to release three prominent Muslim militants.

    In New Delhi on Monday, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee urged the United States and other world powers to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. He said India had enough evidence to prove Pakistani complicity in the hijacking.

    Asked about Vajpayee's statement, the State Department said that in order for a state to be designated a terrorist state, the secretary of state must determine that its government has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.

    Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ``has not made such a determination with respect to Pakistan. However, the list of state sponsors of terrorism is under continuous review,'' the department said.

    In Shepherdstown, W. Va., where Israeli and Syrian officials are attending peace talks, State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said there are conflicting reports about who was responsible for the hijacking and where the hijackers are.

    ``Pakistan has told us that it will meet its obligations under the international convention to apprehend the hijackers and bring them to justice. We do not know where the hijackers have gone,'' he said.

    ``We think they must be brought to justice to remind all countries of their international obligations associated with the convention on hijacking.''

    The hijackers left Kandahar in a vehicle and were accompanied by the three former prisoners. They had been given 10 hours by Afghan authorities to leave the country.

    Blah, blah, blah...who cares...