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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 00:41 GMT
Blair on India peace mission
Tony Blair and President Pervez Musharraf in October 2001
Blair will meet Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf
Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to urge India and Pakistan to pull back from the brink of war in a diplomatic visit to the region.

Mr Blair is expected to leave within days and his trip will include meetings with Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Relations between the two neighbouring nuclear states have deteriorated following the suicide bombing of the Indian parliament by Kashmiri separatists on 13 December, which left 14 dead.

India accused Pakistan's military intelligence of masterminding the incident and both countries have since been massing troops and armour on their border.

There has been sporadic exchange of gunfire and shelling across the border in the divided Himalayan state of Kashmir.

Downing Street confirmed Mr Blair's visit on Tuesday evening but for security reasons, no further details were given.

Bin Laden hunt

The prime minister is expected to call for restraint on both sides and to ask for dialogue between the two nations.

Mr Blair is said to be working closely with American president George Bush, who has been in regular contact with Delhi and Islamabad in an effort to ease the situation.

The crisis appears to have affected anti-terror operations in Afghanistan.

Migrant child
Migrants at a camp near Jammu, India
Pakistani troops involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, accused of masterminding the 11 September attacks, have apparently been redeployed along the Indian border.

On Monday, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw urged Pakistan to take part in talks with India to avoid an all-out conflict.

Speaking to Pakistan's foreign minister Abdul Sattar, Mr Straw welcomed the arrest on Sunday of a leading Islamic militant and 22 other suspects.

Mr Blair's mission follows his successful shuttle diplomacy in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan.

That included meetings with President Musharraf in October.

See also:

01 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK calls for Kashmir peace talks
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