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Powell to Visit Pakistan, India


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell heads to Pakistan and India this weekend to help shore up relations between the nuclear rivals and their support for U.S. military actions in Afghanistan.

The U.S. administration has praised Pakistan's cooperation in the anti-terrorism coalition. Secretary Powell will re-enforce that message in his meetings with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.

General Musharraf has allowed Pakistan's airspace to be used during the U.S. strikes against targets inside Afghanistan. U.S. officials say Pakistan has offered other assistance too.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Secretary Powell also will meet India's Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to talk about India's role in the anti-terrorism coalition. "There is serious work to do with both of these governments on the global coalition against terrorism. Each one is making an important contribution in their own way. We'll discuss that support," the spokesman said. "We'll discuss how we go forward in the long-term fight against terrorism with two of the countries that are close to the problem."

Mr. Boucher said Washington also is seeking to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, which are running high over the issue of Kashmir. "We've been working with both sides independently but positively on the coalition. We have relationships with both Pakistan and India that have been developing positively and we've always encouraged them to take positive steps to reduce tensions and would continue to want to see them do that now," Mr. Boucher said.

India blames Pakistan for supporting terrorism groups in Kashmir. Pakistan has denied the accusations. Earlier in the week Pakistan's leader invited Prime Minister Vajpayee to visit, but a foreign ministry spokesman in New Delhi says Islamabad first must address India's concerns over terrorism in Indian Kashmir.