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Powell criticizes Pakistani missile test

Pakistan says it's 'ready for war'

A previous launch of a Ghauri missile. Pakistan said it was the third testing of the Ghauri missile system
A previous launch of a Ghauri missile. Pakistan said it was the third testing of the Ghauri missile system  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan declared its test of a nuclear-capable missile a success Saturday, but a top U.S. official criticized Pakistan for conducting the test during its military standoff with India over Kashmir.

India's defense minister said the test revealed Pakistani "nervousness" over the situation, in which hundreds of thousands of troops are massed along the Indian-Pakistani border and on Kashmir's Line of Control.

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, hailed Saturday's test of the surface-to-surface Ghauri missile -- which could strike major Indian cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai -- in a speech at a religious conference in Islamabad.

"We don't want war, but we are ready for war," Musharraf said.

Saturday's test was the first of a series scheduled to continue until Tuesday -- a series U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said was not "a terribly useful thing to do right now."

Pakistani military officials said the test was part of an ongoing program unrelated to the current Indian-Pakistani military confrontation at Kashmir's Line of Control. But Powell said that if the missile test was routine, it could have been performed another time.

"The key thing that we're looking for now is to shut down the action across the Line of Control," he told reporters in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he was traveling with President Bush. "From that point on, if we can get to that point, that first set of steps, then I think there will be opportunities for many other things to happen after that."

CNN's Kasra Naji has more on the preparations being conducted by India in the wake of the Pakistani nuclear capable missile test.

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CNN's John King reports that both U.S. and Russian presidents are trying to prevent further tension between India and Pakistan.

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In an exclusive interview with CNN, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said the test was clearly designed to demonstrate Pakistan's nuclear capability to India.

"We're not impressed," he said.

Both countries tested nuclear weapons in 1998, and India tested a nuclear-capable missile of its own in January. Fernandes said any Pakistani threat to use nuclear weapons "would be the most irresponsible act on the part of the Pakistani army."

Diplomats try to calm tensions

The South Asian military crisis has persisted since a December attack on India's parliament that killed 14 people. India's government blamed the attack on Kashmiri separatists it says are backed by Pakistan: Pakistan says it provides only diplomatic and moral support.

The assassination of a Kashmiri separatist Tuesday and an attack on an Indian army camp that killed more than 30 people earlier this month sparked the latest escalation. The two sides have traded artillery and small-arms fire across Kashmir's Line of Control, the U.N.-drawn boundary dividing the disputed territory, for days.

In January, Musharraf promised to crack down on cross-border attacks by Kashmiri militants: Powell said those attacks are "contributing to [the] situation we find ourselves in," and urged Musharraf to honor those commitments.

India said on Friday that it will delay any military action against Pakistan for at least two weeks, according to senior U.S. and European officials. But Fernandes said Indian forces are "ready to go."

"They ask me only one question when I visit them on the border -- and that is, 'When will you give us clearance to attack?'" Fernandes said.

The fear of an escalating conflict has prompted high-level efforts by U.S. and European diplomats to defuse the situation. European Union External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten visited both India and Pakistan this week; British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is scheduled to visit the region next week, and Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, plans to visit the region in early June.

Pakistan is a key player in the U.S.-led antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan, but the standoff with India has Islamabad considering to pull troops away from the Afghan border to reinforce its eastern frontier. U.S. forces have relied on those troops to cut off escape routes for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters seeking to slip across the border from Afghanistan.

-- CNN New Delhi Bureau Chief Satinder Bindra and Correspondent Tom Mintier contributed to this report.


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