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US Urges India, Pakistan to Work Together - 2001-12-18

The White House is urging India and Pakistan to work together against terrorism. India says gunmen who attacked parliament last week are part of a group supported by Pakistan, a charge the Pakistani government denies.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush believes India has a legitimate right to self-defense, but should think carefully before deciding on any retalitory action against Pakistan. "What is important from the president's point of view for both India and Pakistan is to fight terrorism and to fight the terrorists who are trying to destabilize the region," he said. "They have a common cause against terrorist enemies. This is not a reason for India or Pakistan to take action against each other. This is time for India and Pakistan to take action against the terrorists."

Mr. Fleischer says India and Pakistan are both important U.S. allies in the war against terrorism. He said the president remains hopeful that both countries will act "responsibly" in what he calls "a situation that is already complicated."

The United States is trying to boost military cooperation with India at the same time it is relying on Pakistan to help with the fight against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. India has long accused Pakistan of backing fighters in their disupted border region of Kashmir.

India says Pakistan was trying to wipe out India's political leadership by sponsoring the attack on parliament, which killed 13 people including five gunmen. Pakistan denies the allegation, saying it will consider action against anyone in Pakistan if India produces proof that they were involved in the attack.

Mr. Fleischer says all nations involved in the fight against terrorism should help India uncover who is responsible for last week's attack. "The president has made it clear that the United States opposes terrorism everywhere, and as the global campaign continues, the president urges all who support that effort to assist India as India deals with that problem," said Ari Fleischer.

Mr. Fleischer says Secretary of State Colin Powell has spoken to Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf about the importance of curbing extremists.