US declines to comment on developments in Kashmir

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Washington, Aug 28 (UNI) The Bush Administration has declined to comment on the current developments in Kashmir, stating the United States' "general policy" to encourage India and Pakistan to negotiate their differences peacefully.

State Department's Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood made this statement yesterday when asked to comment on the resurgence of tensions in Kashmir and India's allegation that infiltrators from Pakistan have killed a number of people there.

"I saw the report, but, you know, obviously, we're concerned when tensions rise in that region. And, you know, as our general policy, we've always encouraged the governments of India and Pakistan to negotiate their differences peacefully but I don't have anything to add beyond that," Mr Wood said.

In reply to a question about Pakistan's role in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan where militancy has of late been on the rise, Mr Wood said, "our interests with Pakistan are long-standing, and, of course, our ability to be able to fight the war on terror effectively depends a great deal on Pakistani cooperation." Commenting on controversy involving US Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad's alleged interference in Pakistani politics, Mr Wood said, Ambassador Khalilzad had relationships with a number of leaders in the region and "he provides good counsel to the Secretary of State [Condoleezza Rice] and the President [Bush] on various subjects. So I don't see that as an issue with regard to our relationship with Pakistan." Mr Wood said, "we're obviously working with the new government [of Pakistan] to try to do what we can to defeat the Taliban on both sides of the border. And it's an important matter not just for the United States and Pakistan, but for the rest of the international community." Mr Wood said the United States would be working with the new government on "ways we can more effectively counter extremism. But Ambassador Khalilzad is an important player in the US Government, and the Secretary and the President, as I said, really respect his views greatly." UNI XC NC HS1050

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