- The Washington Times - Friday, January 24, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 (UPI) — The State Department said Friday that calls from some Pakistani religious groups to expel the U.S. ambassador in Islamabad were not serious.

Religious extremists in Pakistan are demanding that Islamabad expel Ambassador Nancy Powell for saying that Pakistan are allowing infiltration into Kashmir to continue.

According to reports published in the Pakistani press, Powell, while addressing a gathering in Karachi on Wednesday, urged Pakistan to stop cross-border infiltrations in Kashmir, a region it disputes with India, and to prevent the country from becoming a hub for terrorists.

Pakistani religious organizations reacted strongly to Powell's remarks, saying that her statement about Kashmir was an interference in Pakistan's internal affairs. They also urged the Pakistani government to ask the United States to recall her.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said there was no difference between Powell's views and those of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on the issue of terrorism but that on other issues, she was misquoted by the Pakistani media.

"She made (these) remarks in a speech in Karachi where she echoed the remarks of President Musharraf in January last year, when he said that Pakistan would not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world," said Boucher.

"And that has been a pledge that we've taken seriously and something that we've continued to work with Pakistan on," he added.

Asked if Pakistan was still allowing its territory to be used for cross-border infiltrations into Kashmir, the spokesman said that since Musharraf's assurance, "we've seen a lot of steps on the part of the Pakistani government, but there's always more work … that they are doing and that we need to do with them."

"On the subject of infiltration, as you know, we said infiltration has gone down and come back up somewhat."

India blames Pakistan for sending armed insurgents into Kashmir for carrying out terrorist attacks. Pakistan denies the charge.

But last summer, after a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, India sent hundreds of thousands of additional troops to the border. And at one stage it seemed as if the South Asia's two nuclear states were heading for yet another war.

The situation caused Washington to send Secretary of State Colin Powell and other senior officials to the region to disengage India and Pakistan. Later reports indicated that U.S. intervention pulled the two rival neighbors from the brink of the war.

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