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US Delegation Hopeful about Forthcoming Pakistani Leader's Speech - 2002-01-08

A delegation of senior U.S. senators says they believe a national address by Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf later this week will de-escalate tensions with India.

After talks with the Pakistani leader, the head of the American delegation, Senator Joseph Lieberman told reporters that President Musharraf's policy speech will be critically important. "We all hope," he said, "that the leadership of India will listen carefully to President Musharraf's words in the next few days and I hope they will find something there to lead them to want to at least sit down and begin negotiations."

Senator Lieberman declined to elaborate on details of what the Pakistani leader has told them. "I hope and believe they [Musharraf's remarks] will be bold and principled and that they will be so bold and principled and fresh that they will encourage a response from the Indian government," said Senator Lieberman. "Most particularly, I am hopeful that both nations will move some of their troops on the border between India and Pakistan away from the border."

Tensions between India and Pakistan have been running high since a deadly attack on the Indian parliament last month. India blames two Pakistan-based Muslim groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

Under pressure from the United States and India, the Pakistani government has rounded up scores of militants, including leaders of the two Kashmiri groups. On Monday, General Musharraf said he will address the nation to announce further steps to check militancy within the country.

Senator Lieberman believes the Pakistani leader's national address can open a new chapter in the history of the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. "He [General Musharraf] is thinking very seriously, and I think he is searching for a fresh initiative that will not only reduce the tensions that exist now between Pakistan and India, but will begin a whole new chapter in the Kashmir dispute," he said.

Mr. Lieberman thinks there should be mediation between India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir dispute. Without such a move, he says, progress will not occur. New Delhi rejects third party involvement to resolve the Kashmir dispute, which has caused two full-scale wars between India and Pakistan.