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US Official Holds Talks in Pakistan Amid Escalation in Kashmir Violence - 2002-08-24

A top U.S. diplomat says tensions between India and Pakistan have eased somewhat since his last visit in June. However, the two South Asian nations remain in a military standoff over the disputed region of Kashmir, with nearly a million troops deployed along their border.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said it is up to Pakistan and India to resolve the dispute over Kashmir. Speaking to reporters after talks with Pakistani officials, Mr. Armitage said the United States can offer assistance, but it cannot impose a solution.

"I think that, from the United States' point of view, we are concentrating on trying to bring about a situation, where there can be a dialogue, and the two parties can sit down, face-to-face, to speak about these matters, and to resolve them together. Ultimately, the responsibility rests on the shoulders of the leaders of these two great countries," he said.

Mr. Armitage said tensions between India and Pakistan have eased since his last visit in June. But he says efforts must continue to encourage a peaceful dialogue between the two nations.

On Friday, he met with officials in India who told him that Pakistan is failing to keep its promise to stop infiltrations by militants into Indian Kashmir. Mr. Armitage on Saturday said the United States is convinced that Pakistan is doing its best to stop the infiltration.

"There is some obvious infiltration across the line of control [dividing Kashmir]," he said, " but our friends here in Pakistan assured me that this was not something sponsored by the government of Pakistan."

Shortly after Mr. Armitage began his mission to the region Friday, Pakistan accused India of launching an attack across the line of control dividing Kashmir. Officials in New Delhi call the claim baseless.

Earlier Saturday, India said separatist militants killed several civilians in Indian Kashmir. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of sending armed militants to fuel a Muslim insurgency in Indian Kashmir. Islamabad dismisses the charge.

During his talks with Pakistani leaders, Mr. Armitage says he discussed what he called Pakistan's excellent cooperation in the U.S.-led war against terrorism in neighboring Afghanistan. He expressed confidence in Pakistan's efforts to seal its border with Afghanistan so that members of the al-Qaida terrorist network cannot escape U.S. troops.

"We think that they are doing a splendid job in these very difficult tribal areas. …We are quite delighted with their [Pakistani] activities, and are very complimentary of it," he said.

Pakistan is a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. It has allowed the Americans to use bases in the country and has helped track down terrorists linked to al-Qaida.