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Tuesday, June 15, 1999 Published at 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK

World: South Asia

Clinton urges restraint in Kashmir

India continued its assault on enemy positions despite losses

President Clinton has called for restraint in the crisis over Kashmir as India reported capturing a strategic height in fierce hand-to-hand fighting.

Kashmir Conflict
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 also expected to speak directly to the Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the Indian Prime Minister said President Clinton had "recognised the restraint exercised by India so far."

The National Security Council's P J Croughley on the US stand
P J Croughley, a member of the US National Security Council, said Mr Clinton had also urged both sides to respect the Line of Control.

Officials in Washington are reported to have expressed disappointment at the failure of the talks between India and Pakistan on Saturday to make any progress.

India reports gains

More air raids were reported on Tuesday in the Kargil sector as Indian forces battled to dislodge what they say are Pakistani-backed infiltrators.

On Monday, India said its troops regained strategic positions following fierce hand-to-hand fighting.

BBC's Mike Wooldridge: Future of conflict seems as uncertain as ever
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.

(Click here to see a map of the area)

There has been no independent confirmation of the Indian account.

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.

Casualties increasing

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.

In Pakistan, military sources say that there are some signs that the Indian military is mobilising on the border away from Kashmir.

According to the BBC's Owen Bennet-Jones in Islamabad, the sources said there was evidence that Indian air and ground forces were moving to forward positions along the two countries' common border.

China seeking better ties

On the diplomatic front, China - Pakistan's long-standing ally - has signalled it wants a better relationship with India.
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge: "Highest casualty rate in any single operation"
On Tuesday, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Zhang Qiyeu, described a visit by India's External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh to Beijing as "an important step in the process of improving relations."

She added that China had a "basic policy" of seeking better ties with India.

Ms Zhang also said that China hoped for a resolution of the Kashmir crisis "through peaceful means."

Mr Singh is the first Indian foreign minister to visit to China in eight years.

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