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Bush Asks Indian, Pakistani Leaders to Ease Tensions - 2002-06-05

President Bush has telephoned the leaders of India and Pakistan, asking them to avoid further violence in Kashmir. The United States and Britain are strongly urging their citizens to leave India and Pakistan.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer has said President Bush asked both leaders to take steps to ease tensions in the region and reduce the risk of war. "To both leaders, the president stressed the need to choose the path of diplomacy. South Asia is a region of tremendous potential. Armed conflict will do nothing to improve the lives of the people in India or in Pakistan. It will instead block the future of both nations," he said.

Mr. Fleischer said President Bush asked Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to follow through on promises to stop Islamic militants from launching cross-border raids into Indian Kashmir. He said Mr. Bush asked Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to de-escalate the military build-up along the border.

"The president reiterated to President Musharraf that the United States expects Pakistan to live-up to the commitment it made to end all support for terrorism. The president emphasized to Prime Minister Vajpayee, in a phone call that ended literally just minutes ago, the need for India to respond with de-escalatory steps," Mr. Fleischer said.

He said both leaders understood the president's message and only "time will tell" how they will respond.

Pakistan has expressed skepticism about an Indian plan for joint patrols along the disputed border, but stopped short of rejecting the proposal, saying it would consider the plan if India agrees to resume dialogue.

Meanwhile, the State Department again urged Americans to leave Pakistan and India, saying tensions have risen to serious levels and the risk of greater hostilities between the nuclear-armed neighbors cannot be ruled out.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is traveling to the region for talks in Islamabad Thursday and New Delhi Friday. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to visit the region next week.