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US Continues Telephone Diplomacy in India-Pakistan Standoff - 2001-12-28

The Bush administration is continuing a campaign of telephone diplomacy to try to de-fuse the stand-off between India and Pakistan. Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the situation Thursday with his British and Russian counterparts.

Mr. Powell's efforts reflect the sense of alarm in Washington about the India-Pakistan confrontation, which not only raises the prospect of full-scale hostilities between two nuclear powers but also an unraveling of the Bush administration's coalition against terrorism.

State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the Secretary telephoned British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to ask those governments to apply diplomatic leverage to help ease the crisis.

The spokesman said Mr. Powell and his colleagues are urging the South Asian rivals who are engaged in their biggest military buildup in some 15 years, to act "responsibly" to avoid a conflict he said could have no good result for either side. "Certainly the reports that we've seen of missile deployments and other military movements can only heighten tensions and uncertainty in the situation," he said. "And again, it's important for each country to avoid actions that could raise tensions and spiral out of control."

The Secretary of State had two telephone conversations each on Wednesday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, and also called U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan late in the day.

The latest crisis erupted after a December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament that India blamed on two Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups.

In a gesture to India, the administration Wednesday added the two groups Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad to its list of foreign terrorist organizations.

But spokesman Reeker also again commended Pakistani President Musharaff for what he said were courageous moves against domestic radicals.

He said the two governments should both work to prevent the extremists from achieving their goal, which he said was to "drive a greater wedge" between India and Pakistan.

Mr. Reeker said the two governments' tit-for-tat expulsion of diplomats Thursday need not impede efforts at reconciliation. He suggested that they use next week's South Asian regional summit meeting in the Nepalese capital, Katmandu, as a venue for resolving the conflict.