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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 17:09 GMT
US hope on Kashmir crisis
Protests in Pakistan
Protests in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, as the crisis continues
Pakistan is on track to defuse the military stand-off with India, says a senior US senator.

After talks in Islamabad, Joseph Lieberman said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's promise to take action against Muslim militants would be "critically important".

Mr Musharraf has said he will announce new measures within days against Kashmiri separatists.

Former Democratic vice presidential candidate Mr Lieberman, who met Mr Musharraf on Tuesday, said: "He is reaching for a speech to the Pakistani people that will change the history of this country."

Pakistan accused

He added that he believed the "bold" initiatives would encourage a response from the Indian Government, which has been cool so far.

"Most particularly, I am hopeful that both nations... will move some of their troops on the border between India and Pakistan away from the border," said Mr Lieberman.

India said earlier that it had seen no genuine shift in Pakistan's stance towards militant groups despite Mr Musharraf's denunciation of terrorism "in all its forms".

India accuses Pakistan of supporting armed separatists in Kashmir and blames them for last month's attack on the Indian parliament.

Pakistan rejects terrorism in all its forms and manifestations

President Musharraf
"What we are expecting from Pakistan is concrete, serious, substantive steps to deal with cross-border terrorism," said Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao.

"I don't see any shift in their position on terrorism as directed against India. I think the time has come for Pakistan to shed the ambivalence it continues to maintain on such issues," she added.

Click here for map of border region

Pakistan security forces say they have arrested more than 300 Islamic activists over the past 10 days.

Refugees have been leaving the Kashmir border area in fear of fighting

Mr Musharraf has also promised to examine a list of 20 suspects that India has asked to be extradited.

He said after talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday: "Pakistan rejects terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."

BBC correspondent Zaffar Abbas says Mr Musharraf remains under immense domestic pressure from Islamic conservatives against taking steps that may completely change Pakistan's policy of supporting the ongoing insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir.

He says only once Mr Musharraf unveils his measures will it become clear to what extent he is willing to go against the armed militant groups to satisfy the international community, if not India

US pressure

US President George W Bush called on Mr Musharraf to make a clear statement that he intends to deal with terrorist groups.

"I don't believe the situation is defused yet, but I do believe there is a way to do so," Mr Bush said.

India holds two militant groups - Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba - responsible for the Delhi attack, and has publicly ruled out any dialogue until Pakistan brings them to justice.

Both groups have threatened more assaults on military targets in the Kashmir area and urged civilians to stay away.

Suspected Islamic militants used guns and grenades to attack an army camp in a border area on Tuesday, killing one Indian soldier and wounding four before soldiers returned fire and killed two militants, a police officer said.

Mr Musharraf on Tuesday approved an operational plan from the country's top military commanders to meet the challenge in case of a war with India.

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The BBC's Jim Fish
"Tensions along the Indian, Pakistan border still remains high"
Kashmir author Victoria Schofield
"It's really up to the Indian Prime Minister"
See also:

08 Jan 02 | Media reports
Blair's balancing act
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Blair urges Kashmir dialogue
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf on a tightrope
04 Jan 02 | Americas
Powell urges Pakistan to do more
03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Musharraf seeks China's backing
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
War moves spread fear on border
08 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Blair's South Asia diplomacy
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