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US Coordinating Kashmir Peace Efforts with Britain, EU - 2002-05-23

The Bush administration has intensified its telephone diplomacy on the Kashmir crisis, and is sending Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to the area for talks with Indian and Pakistani leaders on a mission beginning June 4. Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf Thursday and is expected to be in contact with senior Indian officials Friday.

Officials here say Secretary of State Colin Powell, who's in Europe with President Bush, spoke twice Thursday with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and three times with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in a continuing effort to ease South Asian tensions.

Mr. Straw goes to the region for talks next week, to be followed a week later by Deputy Secretary of State Armitage, a former top Pentagon official who has maintained close ties with military leaders on both sides.

At a briefing, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker again stressed U.S. concern about danger of a confrontation over Kashmir spinning out of control, and said it is "vital" for all sides in the crisis to exercise restraint and reduce violence.

"We understand India's frustrations and anger over continued terrorist actions, but would reiterate that rather than being the solution, military action in this crisis would create even greater problems," said Mr. Reeker. "It's important for India and Pakistan to resume a productive dialogue over the issues that divide them, and that includes Kashmir. An important component to this process is an end to infiltration into Kashmir, and as we've done before, we call upon Pakistan to do all it can to achieve this objective."

In that regard, spokesman Reeker took note of President Musharraf's statement Wednesday that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used as a base for terrorist actions.

India blames Pakistani-based extremists for a series of terrorist acts on its side of the "line of control" in Kashmir, including last week's bus attack that killed more than 30 people, most of them family members of Indian troops.

The United States has been coordinating its Kashmir peace efforts with Britain and the European Union, whose external affairs commissioner, Chris Patten, is currently in the area.

A senior administration official said here Wednesday the United States has offered specific ideas for de-escalating the military showdown between the two nuclear-armed South Asian powers.

India has resisted the idea of U.S. mediation over the Kashmir issue itself, which has been a point of contention, and periodic conflict, between the two countries since their independence in 1947.