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Page last updated at 11:54 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

Pakistan 'should avoid conflict'

Indian troops at border near Bikaner
India denies any significant extra troop movements to the border

The head of Pakistan's military has said there is a "need to de-escalate and avoid conflict" in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.

In what were thought his first comments since tension rose, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the focus should be on "peace and security in the region".

At the weekend Indian and Pakistani military officials held a "hotline" conversation on recent troop movements.

Last month's attacks on Mumbai left more than 170 people dead.

'Routine'

Gen Kayani's comments were carried in an army statement linked to his meeting with visiting Chinese Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei.

The general's comments made no direct reference to India but analysts said they were an attempt to ease the atmosphere.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who also met Mr He, said Islamabad wanted "de-escalation of tensions with India and hoped that these sentiments would be reciprocated by the Indian leadership".

Pakistani soldier, 27 November, 2008, in Bajaur
Pakistan has suspended some army operations against militants

The BBC's Charles Haviland in Islamabad says Pakistan and China are close friends and Beijing's aim in sending Mr He as a special envoy to Islamabad is to help defuse the tension between India and Pakistan.

Relations between Delhi and Islamabad have been strained since the attacks, which India blames on the Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba. The group and the Pakistani government deny any involvement.

The unscheduled "hotline" conversation between Indian and Pakistani military officials discussed reports of troop movements, Indian defence sources said.

The Press Trust of India reported the sources as saying Saturday's "unprecedented" call was to clarify positions on either side of the border.

The sources said both sides made it clear they were not taking aggressive positions and that the military movements were routine.

A Pakistani military official confirmed to Agence France-Presse news agency that the directors general of military operations (DGMOs) of both sides had spoken.

Reports last week said Pakistan had redeployed some troops from the north-west to the Indian border and cancelled some army leave.

Air strikes against militants in the restive Swat and Bajaur regions had been scaled down, officials said.

But one Pakistani military official told Reuters that reports of thousands of troops being redeployed were "absolute rubbish".

India's military has denied any significant bolstering of troops on the border.

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