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Editorial Desk

A group of pro-Taliban clerics, retired army generals and outlawed militant groups has vowed to defy President Pervez Musharraf's ban on crossing into Jammu and Kashmir, leaders and witnesses said on Monday.

Dozens of hardline clerics and militants, who gathered for a meeting on Monday in Islamabad, have faxed a statement to Musharraf, asking for an end to Pakistan's cooperation with America in the war against terror.

The logistical and intelligence support given to American forces last year should be withdrawn to prove that Pakistan is a sovereign nation, they said in a declaration adopted by 23 Islamic groups. It urged "every patriotic and Muslim Pakistani" to obseve June 14 as "solidarity day for Kashmiris."

"Jihad in Kashmir will continue," said Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg, the Pakistan army chief in 1989 when militants launched a guerrilla war in Jammu and Kashmir with Islamabad's covert support. "No force on Earth can stop the freedom movement."

The meeting took place on the day that India said it will allow Pakistani aircraft to resume use of Indian air space- a move seen as a step back from the brink of war. New Delhi followed on Tuesday by announcing that Indian warships have begun moving away from waters near Pakistan in the northern Arabian Sea.

Militants say Musharraf has stabbed them in the back by closing down their training camps and making it impossible for them to sneak into Indian territory.