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US Official Pushes Pakistan, India to Ease Kashmir Violence - 2004-07-15

The United States is again urging both India and Pakistan to take steps to reduce the violence plaguing the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.

After holding discussions with Indian leaders, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage met with Pakistani officials to discuss the coming peace talks. The long-running dispute between Pakistan and India focuses on the divided territory of Kashmir, which each side claims as its own.

India accuses Pakistan of sending militants across the Line of Control, which separates the two sides, to oppose New Delhi's rule in its part of Kashmir. Pakistan, on the other hand, accuses India of abusing the human rights of Kashmiris in the territory.

But speaking Thursday in Islamabad, Mr. Armitage said both sides have a responsibility to improve the situation and address each other's concerns as the talks progress.

"It has to be noted that there are lots of different kinds of violence, there's some across-the-L.O.C. (Line of Control) violence, there is other indigenous violence," he says. "It all should stop so the people of Jammu and Kashmir can have a prosperous life, a prosperous future."

He also praised Pakistan's efforts to curb terrorism near its border with Afghanistan, despite recent criticism from Afghan officials and Washington's ambassador to Kabul. "Those of us who have a larger responsibility and see the total aspect of what Pakistan is doing in the global war on terror, have a view that is quite more pronounced in the positive."

Mr. Armitage and the Pakistani officials also discussed recent developments in Iraq.

Pakistan has refused to send troops, despite a U.S. request earlier this year.

The U.S. diplomat says despite differences over Iraq, relations between Islamabad and Washington continue to improve. "For the United States, let me say that we are completely satisfied with where we are in our relationship," says Mr. Armitage. "We will look to move forward in a way that's mutually acceptable."

Mr. Armitage's visit coincides with an agreement to cancel a half-billion-dollar's worth of Pakistani debt, part of U.S. aid to its key ally in the war on terrorism.