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Tuesday, 29 October, 2002, 10:41 GMT
US urges India-Pakistan talks
Indian soldiers patrol along the Line of Control
Indian forces will remain deployed in Kashmir
A senior US official, Richard Haas, has urged India and Pakistan to start talking - despite on-going infiltration by militants in the disputed Kashmir region.


We feel [talks] could take place simultaneously

US diplomat Richard Haas

Mr Haas, currently visiting India, says the announcement by the two neighbours that they would withdraw troops from the borders offered a "breathing space" and an opportunity.

However, India says a dialogue with Pakistan can only resume when infiltration by armed separatists across the Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir between the two neighbours stops.

Mr Hass, who heads the State Department policy planning unit, said although militants were still entering Indian-administered Kashmir, talks could be resumed nonetheless.

He is scheduled to meet senior Pakistani officials in Islamabad on Wednesday when he is expected to express US concern over continuing infiltration.

'Simultaneous' talks

Mr Haas met Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha late on Monday and is conferring with other officials on Tuesday.

Richard Haas
Mr Haas says infiltration is continuing

He told reporters in Delhi: "Clearly, infiltration across the Line of Control is continuing and remains a matter of considerable concerns to us."

"We want to see it stopped," he said.

However, referring to Delhi's demand that infiltration stop before talks begin, he said, "we feel this could take place simultaneously."

Continuing diplomacy

The US envoy also praised the recent polls in Indian-administered Kashmir which elected a new legislative assembly.

Following the defeat of his National Conference party, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah resigned and a new coalition government is expected to take office shortly.

Tension over Kashmir mounted following the deployment of large forces by the nuclear-armed neighbours late last year and brought them close to war in the summer.

Although India now says it will withdraw its troops from the border with Pakistan, it will maintain its forces along the LoC.

Mr Haas is the latest senior Western official to have visited the region over the past year in an effort to defuse tension and encourage the resumption of talks.

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28 Oct 02 | South Asia
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