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Bush calls Pakistan, India leaders

President urges calm between countries

CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush tried to curb escalating tensions in South Asia on Saturday, phoning the leaders of Pakistan and India from his ranch and urging them to quell unrest in their countries.

In separate calls, Bush spoke with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bahari Vajpayee and Gen. Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, said White House deputy press secretary Scott McClellan. His calls followed up regular phone calls Secretary of State Colin Powell has made to both leaders.

The nuclear powers have traded barbs, mobilized their military forces near the disputed Kashmir region and taken other measures after a December 13 attack on India's parliament that left 14 people, including five attackers, dead.

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Telephoning from Crawford, Texas, Bush urged Musharraf to take "additional, strong and decisive measures" to remove extremists and terrorists from Pakistan, said McClellan. India blames Islamic militants based in and supported by Pakistan for the New Delhi attack.

Terrorist groups in Pakistan, said Bush, threaten to "undermine Pakistan, provoke a war between India and Pakistan and destabilize the international coalition against terrorism."

U.S. officials have expressed concern that the movement of thousands of Pakistani troops from its western border with Afghanistan may make it easier for al Qaeda and Taliban forces to escape. They also fear it may prompt anti-American fighters to target U.S. troops inside Pakistan.

Bush praised Musharraf for helping U.S. forces carry out military activities inside Afghanistan, and lauded Pakistan's president for recently ordering the arrest of 50 suspected terrorists, McClellan said.

In his conversation with Vajpayee, Bush said the United States was "determined to cooperate" with India to fight terrorism worldwide, according to McClellan. The president also reiterated America's "outrage" over the December 13 attack, calling it a "strike against democracy."

As he did with Musharraf, Bush urged Vajpayee to "reduce tensions in the region," McClellan said.

The president also discussed the mounting India-Pakistan crisis with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is expected to soon visit both nations, McClellan said. Bush and Blair talked about what their countries could to prevent India and Pakistan from returning to war.

The two south Asian nations have fought three wars -- two over the disputed Kashmir region -- since 1947.



 
 
 
 



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