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Monday, June 14, 1999 Published at 22:27 GMT 23:27 UK

World: South Asia

Hand-to-hand fighting in Kashmir

India continued its assault on enemy positions despite losses

India says its troops have regained strategic positions in Indian-administered Kashmir following fierce hand-to-hand fighting.

Kashmir Conflict
As the conflict intensified, US President Bill Clinton called for talks with Pakistan to resume.

The Indian gains came at a cost, with 17 Indian soldiers reported killed. The Indians say that the bodies of several Pakistan soldiers were also found.

There has been no independent confirmation of the Indian account.

BBC's Mike Wooldridge: Future of conflict seems as uncertain as ever
Defence sources told reporters that India had captured the 4,500-metre Tololing peak, which overlooks the strategic National Highway 1A, linking Srinagar and Leh.

Reports say another post, overlooking the town of Drass, was also captured.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

India has suffered heavy casualties in the ongoing conflict, a military spokesman revealed.

"Our figure is 103 killed, 242 wounded and eight missing," Indian Army spokesman Colonel Bikram Singh told reporters at a briefing.

He said that 267 Pakistani soldiers had been killed.

Clinton urges diplomacy

President Clinton has joined the international effort to persuade India and Pakistan to negotiate an end to the fighting.

[ image: Vajpayee: 'India is prepared for any eventuality']
Vajpayee: 'India is prepared for any eventuality'
Mr Clinton spent 10 minutes speaking by telephone to the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, urging him to resume direct talks with Pakistan, and calling for restraint in the fighting.

Mr Clinton is expected to speak directly to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, who has already offered direct talks with Delhi.

Mr Sharif said on Monday the crisis should be resolved through talks, but that Pakistan was also ready to defend its security interests.

Mr Vajpayee said India would only hold talks after Pakistan withdrew its forces.

"For the last 22 years there was peace on this border. You have committed this aggression. You withdraw your troops and then we are prepared for talks," he said.

Talks with China

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge: "Jaswant Singh's visit will be closely watched in Pakistan"
Meanwhile, India's External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh has been holding high-level talks in Beijing in the first visit to China in eight years by an Indian foreign minister.

Mr Singh met Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan on Monday evening, and is to meet Premier Zhu Rongji on Tuesday.

His visit closely follows that of Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to Beijing and Delhi, in efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

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