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Police lift cordon around Kashmir leaders' houses

SRINAGAR, India, Sept 7 (AFP) - Police in Indian-administered Kashmir overnight lifted a cordon around the homes of three top separatists, including the head of the main separatist alliance, leaders said Saturday.

"The cordon has been lifted and there seem to be no more restrictions," Abdul Gani Bhat, chairman of leading separatist alliance the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), told AFP.

The other two leaders who were put under house arrest Friday were Hurriyat executive member Molvi Abbas Ansari and Shabir Shah, who heads the Democratic Freedom Party which is not part of the Hurriyat. Kashmir police chief Ashok Suri denied they had been placed under house arrest.

"Then why did his men surround my house and tell me not to move out?" asked Bhat. "I had not invited them for a cup of tea.

"They are lying because they know the move is likely to be condemned by everyone." Ansari, who is also a leading Muslim cleric, said he had not been allowed by the police to visit a mosque on Friday to pray.

The restrictions on the leaders prevented a four-member Hurriyat delegation leaving for New Delhi on Friday for a meeting with a government-backed private committee on Kashmir headed by former Indian law minister Ram Jethmalani.

"If all goes well we will leave for Delhi this (Saturday) afternoon," said Bhat, leader of the delegation.

Former Hurriyat chairman Umar Farooq, acting chairman of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Javed Mir and Sheikh Ali Mohammed of Jamaat-e-Islami are the other three members of the delegation.

Farooq said the meeting in New Delhi had been rescheduled for Saturday evening.

The committee has been trying to persuade the separatists to take part in state elections in Kashmir, due to be held in four phases starting on September 16.

The separatists say they will only take part in polls linked to the resolution of the Kashmir issue, where some 36,500 have died since the start of a Muslim insurgency against Indian rule in 1989.

HNB-Pathum Udanaya2002

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