- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 30, 2001

CRAWFORD, Texas President Bush urged Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf yesterday to take new steps to rein in "extremists" who led a deadly attack on India's Parliament this month, edging those two nations toward war. Mr. Bush said he feared the conflict could unravel the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism.
Mr. Bush's demand contrasted with the tone of his remarks yesterday to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He assured Mr. Vajpayee the United States would cooperate with India in its fight against terrorism.
In a sign of the growing sense of urgency within the administration about the military buildup in the region, Mr. Bush called both leaders yesterday morning during his vacation here.
Mr. Bush expressed appreciation for Pakistan's "continued support" during the U.S.-led military campaign in neighboring Afghanistan, and urged both men to exercise restraint, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
But Mr. Bush's message to Mr. Musharraf was much sharper than to Mr. Vajpayee.
He "urged President Musharraf to take additional strong and decisive measures to eliminate the extremists who seek to harm India, undermine Pakistan, provoke a war between India and Pakistan and destabilize the international coalition against terrorism," Mr. McClellan said.
He would not elaborate on what steps Mr. Bush sought, or what it meant to "eliminate" the extremists.
The crisis in the region flared after a Dec. 13 attack by gunmen on India's Parliament that India blamed on Pakistan-based militants backed by the Pakistani government. Pakistan denies involvement in the attack, which left nine Indians and the five attackers dead.
The president told Mr. Vajpayee the United States is "determined to cooperate with India in the fight against terrorism," and reiterated his outrage over the attack, calling it "a strike against democracy."
Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar told CNN in an interview yesterday that the United States could have a healing effect on the conflict. "The United States, as the leader, the leading power of the world, can exercise salutary influence," he said.
Massing troops on the Indian border could draw Pakistani forces away from recent deployments to the border with Afghanistan, particularly in the Tora Bora region, where they are stationed to stop fleeing Taliban or al-Qaida, including suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Sattar said Pakistan has not moved any of its troops away from that border.
Mr. Bush also discussed the crisis with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who plans to travel to the region in the coming days, Mr. McClellan said.
Mr. Bush has used personal calls to world leaders sparingly in times of international crisis. His conversations yesterday were the first with Mr. Vajpayee since Dec. 13 and with Mr. Musharraf since the two met in New York on Nov 10.
Further reinforcing a heightened sense of emergency, Secretary of State Colin Powell spent a second straight day discussing the situation with Mr. Musharraf and Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, a State Department official said. Mr. Powell had also spoken with the two leaders on Friday.
India and Pakistan have said repeatedly they want to avoid war. But Mr. Bush's discussions with the leaders came as both seemed to be drawing closer to military conflict.
He placed the calls a day after saying his administration is "working actively to bring some calm in the region, to hopefully convince both sides to stop the escalation of force."
Indian and Pakistani soldiers only 100 yards apart in some places traded fire again yesterday over the "Line of Control" dividing the disputed Kashmir region, as civilians on both sides of the border were evacuated.
India said yesterday it would continue to mass tens of thousands of troops at its border until Pakistan cracks down on Islamic militants, rejecting a Pakistani call for the two nations' leaders to meet to try to defuse the crisis.
Pakistan warned that the tensions could trigger a full-fledged conflict between the nuclear-armed nations.

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