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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 04:12 GMT
UK calls for Kashmir peace talks
Troops at the border in Kashmir
Tensions have been rising in Kashmir
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has urged Pakistan to take part in talks with India to avoid an all-out conflict.

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

But he said more needed to be done to avert a full-scale conflict between the two countries.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "The Foreign Secretary told Foreign Minister Sattar that he welcomed the steps Pakistan had taken to clamp down on militant groups.

"He encouraged them to do more and to enter into a dialogue with India."

Mr Straw hopes to speak to the Indian foreign minister on Tuesday, added the spokesman.

There are some [in Britain] who feel so strongly about the situation that they are prepared to travel to India or Pakistan to fight

Mohammed Afzal Khan
North West Pakistani-Kashmir Councillors Forum
On Monday night, Mr Straw also discussed with US Secretary of State Colin Powell international efforts to persuade India and Pakistan to seek a peaceful resolution.

Both nations have deployed thousands of troops along their 1,100-mile border.

At least three soldiers and nine militants were killed in fighting in the disputed Kashmir province on Monday.

But there are signs that the leaders of India and Pakistan are attempting to seek a peaceful solution.

The arrest of Hafiz Saeed, who until last week led the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba organisation, has been described by India as a "step forward".

Saeed, accused of plotting an attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi which resulted in 14 deaths, was arrested in Islamabad on Monday night.

He has been charged with making inflammatory speeches and inciting violence.

Hardeep Singh Puri, India's acting High Commissioner in London, repeated his government's view that Pakistan's arrest of Saeed was a "step forward".

'Clashes in Britain'

Community leaders in the UK have warned that any major conflict between the two countries could have repercussions for Britain, which is home to large Indian and Pakistani populations.

I would hope the communities in the UK would be sensible and not import the problems over here

MP Dr Ashok Kumar
British Indo-Parliamentary Group
Mohammed Afzal Khan, chairman of the North West Pakistani-Kashmir Councillors Forum, said: "The Kashmiri situation is something that arouses strong passions in both the Indian and the Pakistani communities in the UK.

"People are very concerned about the build-up of forces. I have no doubt that there are some who feel so strongly about the situation that they are prepared to travel to India or Pakistan to fight. There could also be clashes in Britain."

Avtar Lit, chairman of Asian radio station Sunrise Radio, said: "There could be violent confrontations in British cities, particularly those where there are fairly equal numbers of Indians and Pakistanis, and on university campuses because of the situation in Kashmir."

MP Dr Ashok Kumar, secretary of the British Indo-Parliamentary Group, called on the UK government to do what it could to prevent full-scale war.

"It would be a tragedy for both countries if a full-scale conflict was to arise, but if it was to happen I would hope the communities in the UK would be sensible and not import the problems over here."

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