WASHINGTON, May 23: US Secretary of State Colin Powell has conferred twice with President Pervez Musharraf, and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, is due to leave here for South Asia on June 4.

It is learnt that Mr Armitage, the highest ranking official in the State Department after Secretary Powell, will first visit Pakistan, probably on June 6, and then go on to India. His visit is part of the US efforts to contain the current Indo-Pakistan crisis. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Christina Rocca had gone to the region earlier this month.

Announcing a date for Mr Armitage’s visit, State Department deputy spokesman Philip Reeker counselled India against military action. He said while the US understood India’s anger, military action, rather than being the solution, “would create even greater problems”.

Mr Powell spoke to General Musharraf twice by telephone while travelling with President Bush in Europe. He also conferred three times by telephone with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in what was seen as an effort to coordinate policy on the current Indo-Pakistan crisis. The British foreign secretary is expected in the region next week.

“It’s important for India and Pakistan to resume a productive dialogue over the issues that divide them, and that includes Kashmir,” Mr Reeker said at the State Department’s afternoon briefing. “An important component to this process is an end to infiltration into Kashmir, and as we’ve done before, we call upon Pakistan to do all it can to achieve this objective.”

“We understand India’s frustrations and anger over continued terrorist actions, but would reiterate that, rather than being the solution, military action in this crisis would create even greater problems,” Mr Reeker said.

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