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U.S. Welcomes Easing of India-Pakistan Tension - 2002-10-17


The United States has welcomed promises by India and Pakistan to pull troops back most of the one million troops currently massed on their common border.

Washington says the withdrawals will have a far-reaching impact that should help end months of tension in the region. U-S Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned leaders of both nations to welcome the move.

On Thursday, Pakistan matched India's announcement Wednesday that it would pull back forces to peace-time locations.

Troops have been massed on the border since a December terrorist attack on India's parliament. New Delhi blamed the attack on Muslim militants it says were backed by Pakistan. Pakistan denied the charge.

Both sides say their troops will remain along the military Line-of-Control that divides the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of the disputed Kashmir region.

U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan also welcomed the promises to withdraw troops. Speaking at the United Nations Thursday, Mr. Annan expressed hope the moves will result in a de-escalation of tension in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, the Indian federal government on Thursday imposed direct rule in India's zone of Kashmir. Recent state-level legislative polls led to a deadlock over which party would lead a new coalition.

Media reports say the federal takeover followed a refusal by the state's outgoing chief minister, Farooq Abdullah to oversee the local administration after midnight local time (1830 UTC) Thursday.

No party won a majority in the month-long election that ended in early October and was marred by violence.

The chief minister's National Conference party suffered heavy losses. But the two winning parties, the opposition Congress and a regional group, have not reached a power-sharing agreement.

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