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NATO Urges India, Pakistan to Resolve Differences - 2002-05-28

The leaders of NATO's 19 member nations and Russia are urging India and Pakistan to pull back from the brink of war and resolve their differences over Kashmir peacefully. The standoff between the South Asian nuclear neighbors dominated a luncheon Tuesday attended by the 20 leaders at the conclusion of a NATO-Russia summit at an airbase near Rome.

NATO Secretary General George Robertson told reporters after the luncheon that all of the nations present at the summit share a deep concern about the Indo-Pakistani confrontation and the risks it represents, not just for South Asia but for the world as a whole. "The presidents and prime ministers strongly urge both sides to de-escalate and to resume talking together so that their problems can be resolved peacefully," he said.

It was a highly unusual statement for the head of an organization that normally limits itself to dealing with European and Atlantic affairs. But one of Mr. Robertson's top aides says NATO's secretary general - who stressed that he was speaking for Russia as well as the Western alliance - made an exception because of the danger of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.

The Western and Russian leaders had just signed an agreement setting up a new body that will grant Russia an equal voice in many key decisions made by NATO. The accord on security cooperation between Moscow and its former enemies in the West was hailed as marking the effective end of the Cold War.

Mr. Robertson noted that Mr. Putin has invited Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to a conference of Asian leaders next week in Kazakhstan. The secretary general says Mr. Putin's effort to set up a one-on-one meeting there between the two South Asian leaders has the full support of NATO.

Mr. Robertson says India and Pakistan should acknowledge their obligations to the world and use that opportunity to sit down and talk constructively about a way out of the current crisis.