Copyright 2001 Associated Press
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Associated Press Worldstream
August 29, 2001 Wednesday
SECTION: INTERNATIONAL NEWS
DISTRIBUTION: Asia; England; Middle East; Europe; Britian; Scandinavia
LENGTH: 509 words
HEADLINE: U.S. senators visit disputed Kashmir border
BYLINE: AMIR ZIA; Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: ISLAMABAD, Pakistan
A three-member bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators on Wednesday visited the disputed Kashmir frontier, where Pakistani and Indian troops frequently fight artillery duels,
The delegation led by Democrat Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, visited the border region of Chakothi, 45 kilometers (27 miles) from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir, U.S. Embassy and army officials said. The other senators are Jon Kyl and Porter Goss - both Republicans.
They met soldiers there and visited army posts, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.
On Tuesday, the senators met President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and other top Pakistani officials in the capital Islamabad soon after arriving on a three-day visit.
Pakistan's protracted dispute with India over Kashmir and regional peace were among the key issues that were discussed, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said.
Kashmir, divided between Pakistan and India, has been the cause of two wars between them since the British rule ended on the subcontinent in 1947. Both the nations claim Kashmir as their own.
The international community is pressing the two nuclear rivals to resolve the dispute which threatens regional peace.
Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who held failed peace talks last month, will meet again in September in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in an attempt to resolve differences.
Pakistan wants to solve the Kashmir problem according to the wishes of Kashmiris, Musharraf told soldiers Wednesday in Pakistan's northern areas close to Kashmir. Pakistan won't compromise on this, he said.
India calls Kashmir an integral part of the country. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of fomenting violence in the disputed region, where Muslim guerrillas are waging a secessionist war for its merger with Pakistan or independence. Pakistan denies helping the guerrillas.
The senators also discussed issues relating to terrorism, Afghanistan and bilateral ties, the Foreign Ministry said.
Pakistan was considered a close ally of Washington during the Cold War, while U.S. relations with India were marked by suspicion and mutual distrust because of New Delhi's close ties with the former Soviet Union.
Relations between Pakistan and the United States were particularly close during the 1980s when Soviet forces occupied Afghanistan. Pakistan was the conduit for billions of dollars in U.S. aid to Islamic insurgents, who eventually forced Russia out of Afghanistan.
But relations between Pakistan and the United States soured with the end of the Cold War. Washington stopped all humanitarian and military aid to Pakistan in 1990 to press Islamabad to roll back its nuclear program.
Since then both Pakistan and India have detonated nuclear devices and Islamabad has been chastised by Washington for its alleged support for Islamic rebels fighting in Indian Kashmir.
Washington also criticizes Pakistan's support for Afghanistan's hardline Taliban regime.