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Armitage Visits South Asian Countries - 2003-05-09

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is in India on the final leg of his diplomatic mission to South Asia. This follows talks in Afghanistan where he assured Afghan leaders that U.S. combat troops would not leave their country until the Afghan government and its people feel secure

Mr. Armitage met with Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai on Friday to stress to the war-torn nation that it will not be forgotten despite events in Iraq.

"The United States, although presently pre-occupied in Iraq, is not going to forget its responsibilities here in Afghanistan and that we are able to do two things at the same time."

Mr. Armitage’s visit to Kabul was brief – squeezed between talks held Thursday in Islamabad and more talks in New Delhi on Saturday.

In the Indian capital Friday, India and Pakistan continued to take steps towards reconciliation. A group of visiting Pakistani lawmakers and their Indian counterparts agreed that fundamentalist forces in the two nations must be isolated for a normalization of relations. Over the past two weeks, the two nations have agreed to restore full diplomatic ties, as well as air and rail links.

In another development, India test-fired its new air-to-air missile. The weapon, called "astra," has a range of 25 to 40 kilometers.