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U.S. Praises India, Pakistan Efforts

January 3, 2002

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WASHINGTON (AP) _ After weeks of tension, the Bush administration is praising India and Pakistan for their efforts to avoid a confrontation over Kashmir.

``Each of these countries is continuing to act responsibly in order to avoid a conflict,″ State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Wednesday as he once again urged the two sides to hold talks.

Boucher decried continued violence in Kashmir but his overall message was upbeat.

He said Indian troops in Kashmir had been deployed to assembly areas as opposed to battle positions, and he also alluded to a series of conciliatory actions by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Boucher noted that Musharraf has advocated moderation and has ordered the arrest of several radical Islamic leaders in Pakistan and has closed offices of suspect organizations.

President Bush telephoned British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday to talk about Blair’s coming trip to the region and to synchronize their efforts toward reducing tension.

Secretary of State Colin Powell spent much of his holiday vacation working the telephones with Indian and Pakistani leaders, urging them to climb down from the confrontation.

Boucher said Powell spoke four times with Musharraf over the past several days and three times with Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

He said much of the face-to-face diplomacy has been carried out by U.S. Ambassador Robert Blackwell in New Delhi and his counterpart in Islamabad, Wendy Chamberlin.

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