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Powell pushes for Pakistan action

U.S. State Secretary Colin Powell said Pakistan needed to do more to help combat world terrorism  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will travel to South Asia next week in at attempt to end four weeks of escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.

Powell has said that while he believed Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, had taken some steps to help ease tensions with India after the parliament attack, more needed to be done.

"He has arrested the leaders of the JEM (Jaish-e-Mohammed, or Army of Mohammed) and the LET (Lashkar e-Tayyiba, or Army of the Righteous). He has closed down offices. He has spoken out against terrorism," Powell said Wednesday in Washington after meeting Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani.

"He has also arrested other individuals. But, I think there is room for additional work on his part.

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"I believe he has taken quite a bit of action in recent months, but as you well know, the Indians believe more action is required and we will see what happens in the days and weeks ahead.

"But, I think it's in the interest of all of us to continue to do everything we can do in our power to solve this in political and diplomatic channels and not let it go to conflict."

Advani met with U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft at the U.S. Justice Department Wednesday to explore ways the two nations could co-operate on the issue.

"It is a time when our two great democracies, the United States and India, have been threatened by the same evil -- that of international terrorism. We together are resolved to stamp it out," Advani wrote in a public note to Ashcroft as he arrived at the attorney general's office.

Advani repeated the pledge after meeting the U.S. Secretary of State.

"My discussions today with Mr. Ashcroft, Mr. Powell, Mr. Richard Haas have been extremely useful, extremely fruitful and gives me confidence that we together would be able to stamp out terrorism from all parts of the world," Advani said. Haas is the State Department director of policy planning.

During a picture-taking session with the six-member New Delhi delegation, Ashcroft promised the two nations would work together, but he did not elaborate.

Neither Ashcroft nor Advani mentioned Pakistan, which has been accused of being the base for organizations which launched a deadly raid on India's parliament on December 13.

Tense standoff

A Pakistani soldiers keeps watch across the Line of Control in the disputed region of Kashmir
A Pakistani soldiers keeps watch across the Line of Control in the disputed region of Kashmir  

The two militant groups India believes were behind the December 13 attack and an early attack on the parliament in Srinigar have both denied their involvement.

Advani's visit comes as Indian and Pakistani forces are engaged in a tense stand-off along their shared border and reports Wednesday of further exchanges of fire along the Line of Control that divides the disputed territory of Kashmir.

In the latest clash a police officer was reported wounded in an area of Pakistani-ruled Kashmir.

Observers say a mounting source of frustration within the Indian government has been the perception of double standards regarding the definition of terrorism by the West.

India has wanted the United States to push Pakistan to treat terrorism in India the same way it would treat terrorism in the U.S.

That frustration was reflected in comments Wednesday by Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes that appeared to accuse the U.S. of double standards in its war against terrorism.

Speaking to India's Aaj Tak television channel, Fernandes -- who is himself expected to visit the U.S. next week -- said India expected that the principles behind the global coalition formed in the wake of the September 11 attacks would have been applied beyond the war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

However, he said that seemed not to be the case.

"When [the] global coalition against terrorism was formed, it was our expectation that ... it will continue as a struggle, but we see that when their purpose was served, the expectation that we had was not met," Fernandes said.

Eyes on Musharraf

India will be watching closely a national address from Musharraf expected by the weekend in which he is likely to announce what further measures he will take to deal with the militant groups.

On Monday, in what was seen as an indication of a changing stance Musharraf said Pakistan rejected "all forms of terrorism" and for the first time dropped the term "freedom fighters" -- long used as a standard tag for militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

No details have emerged of what action the Pakistani leader might announce in his address but it is being touted as an attempt to ease tensions with India.

Washington is keen to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan fearing that even a small clash between the two sides could quickly escalate into a dangerous confrontation between the two nuclear powers.

It is also concerned that Pakistani efforts to build up is defenses along the Indian frontier are distracting attention from its frontier with Afghanistan where the U.S. is continuing its hunt for Taliban and al Qaeda forces.

-- CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden contributed to this report


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