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Powell in Almost Daily Contact with Indian, Pakistani Officials - 2001-12-29

As President Bush noted at his news conference Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has again telephoned Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh in an effort to de-fuse the military crisis in South Asia.

Mr. Powell has been on the phone with Indian and Pakistani leaders on an almost-daily basis since last week in an effort to head off a full scale conflict. Spokesman Philip Reeker said in his calls Friday, the secretary again urged the parties to avoid actions that could send tensions spiraling out of control.

"The secretary stressed the need for calm and restraint, urging a lessening of tensions between India and Pakistan," stressed Mr. Reeker. "We expect both countries to continue to act responsibly in order to avoid a conflict."

The spokesman said next week's South Asian summit in Nepal would provide an "obvious opportunity" for dialogue between the two regional powers.

An official here, meanwhile, praised what he said were "courageous" steps by President Musharraf against domestic extremists, and said that among some 50 militants arrested in Pakistan this week was Masood Azhar founder and leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad.

That is one of two Kashmiri factions blamed by India for the December 13 terrorist attack on the Indian parliament that touched off the current crisis.