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US Tries to Reduce Tensions Over Kashmir - 2002-07-16

India is stepping-up pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Islamic militants following Saturday's killing of 28 people in Kashmir. The Bush administration says it is working with both countries to ease tensions over the disputed border region.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush is continuing to work with other members of the international community to prevent further fighting over Kashmir. "The president continues to be deeply concerned about the violence in Kashmir," he said. "The president, as you know, has been working very hard with quite a bit of success along with other members of his administration and the international community to reduce the amount of tension between India and Pakistan over this disputed area. It continues to be an area of great concern and volatility and remains an area of active American diplomatic engagement."

Indian officials say Pakistan was the "inspiration" behind Saturday's attack on a Hindu shantytown where 28 people were killed and more than 30, wounded.

Pakistan denies any involvement in the raid, saying it was a terrorist act aimed at increasing tensions in the region.

India and Pakistan have massed more than one million troops along their border since a December attack on the Indian parliament.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw are both scheduled to visit the nuclear-armed neighbors later this month in hopes of restarting talks over the future of Kashmir.

It is India's only majority-Muslim state and has been a source of conflict between the countries since British colonialists created the Islamic nation of Pakistan in 1947.

India says Pakistan has been supporting Muslim militants fighting for Kashmiri independence. Earlier this year, U.S. and British diplomacy appeared to slow preparations for a broader conflict by getting Pakistan to promise to crackdown on cross-border raids by Muslim militants.

Cooperation with Pakistan was crucial to U.S. military strikes against the Taleban and al-Qaida terrorists in Afghanistan.