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Putin Attempts to Mediate India-Pakistan Tensions - 2002-06-03

Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to mediate between the leaders of India and Pakistan and get them to meet face to face at an Asian security forum that opens Monday in the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan.

Mr. Putin is expected to hold separate meetings in the Kazakh city of Almaty with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to discuss the crisis.

General Musharraf has welcomed the Russian offer to mediate and said again that Pakistan will not start a war with India. However, Prime Minister Vajpayee says he has no plans to meet with the Pakistani president. He says there must first be a halt to attacks by Pakistan-based Islamic militants crossing into the Indian controlled part of Kashmir. The nuclear rivals have massed a million troops along their common border.

Meanwhile Chinese President Jiang Zemin is also to hold separate consultations with the Indian and Pakistani leaders during the Asian summit. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage are also heading to the region to try to defuse tensions.

Mr. Armitage is scheduled to visit the area this week. Mr. Rumsfeld is expected to arrive in the region soon afterward. Meanwhile, families of United Nations employees have started leaving Pakistan over fears war could break out.

The United States, Britain, Israel and several other nations have also begun to pull staff out both countries and have urged their citizens not to go there.

India's military buildup followed a series of terrorist incidents in Kashmir and in New Delhi for which it blames Pakistan. Pakistan has been looking for some sort of independent international presence at the Line of Control in Kashmir to verify whether militants are infiltrating into India as New Delhi claims.