SLUG: 2-290045 Bush / India / Pakistan (L)
TITLE=BUSH INDIA/PAKISTAN (L)
INTRO: President Bush is calling for calm between India and Pakistan as violence continues in the disputed region of Kashmir. V-O-A's Scott Stearns reports, the latest U-S expression of concern follows the assassination of a moderate Kashmiri separatist leader.
TEXT: White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says the president has long been concerned about the deteriorating relationship between India and Pakistan.
He says a conflict between the nuclear powers not only threatens the region but could also distract from the international fight against terrorism.
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We call on India and Pakistan to work to resolve the current crisis peacefully and through dialogue that can eventually result in a permanent solution. The president thinks it is very important that India and Pakistan take all steps they can to reduce tensions and to avoid a war that would destabilize the region and distract from the war against terrorism.
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Mr. Fleischer says the Bush Administration is engaged in on-going diplomacy to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, including an upcoming visit to the countries by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage.
U-S concerns follow the assassination of Kashmiri separatist leader Abdul Ghani Lone who was shot by masked gunmen at a memorial rally for another separatist leader.
In a written statement, Secretary of State Colin Powell said he was saddened and angered to hear of the murder, calling it a direct attack on Mr. Lone's hopes for what the secretary calls "a fair political process in Kashmir."
Mr. Lone was seen as a moderate leader who wanted to take steps toward talks with the Indian government to find a political solution to the dispute.
Secretary Powell says his killers are "clearly among those who oppose a peaceful political resolution," calling the assassination a terrorist act designed to undermine hopes for free and fair elections.
India and Pakistan have massed nearly a million troops along their border since December, when Islamic militants attacked the Indian parliament. (SIGNED)
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