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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 17:05 GMT
France urges calm over Kashmir
Indian soldiers at LoC
Tension has increased between India and Pakistan
French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine has urged India and Pakistan to hold talks to ease tensions over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

We are obviously in favour of a dialogue between India and Pakistan.

French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine
Mr Vedrine, who is in Delhi on the first leg of a tour of South Asia, said that he hoped that problems between the two countries would be dealt with in a "mature" manner.

"We do not want the current situation [in Afghanistan] to have a negative or detrimental effect on the relationship between India and Pakistan," he said.

Mr Vedrine has been meeting Indian leaders to discuss the US-led campaign against Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban in Afghanistan.

He will hold similar discussions in Islamabad.

Afghan war

Mr Vedrine said that the international community needed the "constructive" involvement of both India and Pakistan in the search for a solution in Afghanistan.

French FM
Hubert Vedrine: On regional tour
He also said that air strikes were necessary, despite regrettable civilian casualties.

"Even if there are problems, this initial military phase had to be conducted."

His visit comes a day after India appointed a special envoy to hold talks with other countries on plans for an alternative Afghan government.

The new envoy is Satinder Lambah, a former ambassador to Pakistan and Russia. Several countries, including Britain and France, have also recently appointed special Afghan envoys.

Post-Taleban scene

Mr Vedrine's talks follow high-profile visits to Delhi by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou is due in the Indian capital on Friday as efforts continue to find a consensus on a post-Taleban administration in Afghanistan.

The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, has expressed opposition to Taleban representation in any new government.

But Pakistan favours incorporating some Taleban members in any new government.

India, which backs the Northern Alliance and the ousted government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, has stepped up its attempts to have a say in the formation of a new Afghan government.

See also:

01 Nov 01 | South Asia
Pakistani troop moves 'provocative'
31 Oct 01 | South Asia
India general's Kashmir warning
16 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Kashmir threat to coalition
31 Oct 01 | Americas
Analysis: The allies' Afghan gamble
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