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U.S. general in Pakistan pushes for peace in Kashmir

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- With both Pakistan and India warning of war, a top U.S. general held talks Thursday with Pakistan's military to try to calm tensions over the divided Kashmir region.

Western officials, who would not be quoted by name, said Gen. Anthony Zinni would echo President Clinton's earlier suggestions for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: to remove Pakistan's armed forces from Indian-ruled Kashmir and resume talks with India.Pakistan denies sending soldiers across the disputed Kashmiri border into neighboring India or backing Islamic militants it calls freedom fighters.

Neither the U.S. Embassy nor the Pakistan military offered any comment on the talks in Islamabad. Zinni is the commander in chief of the Central Command.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gibson Lanpher, who accompanied Zinni to Pakistan, will travel to New Delhi to brief Indian officials about the discussions, India's Foreign Office spokesman, Raminder Jassal, told reporters at a briefing in the Indian capital.

But Jassal added: "It is not that somebody is coming here to mediate between India and Pakistan."

Zinni was expected to meet Sharif. It was unclear how long Zinni would be in Pakistan.

After India and Pakistan gained independence in 1947, the departing British colonial rulers divided the former Himalayan state of Kashmir between the two countries. Since then, they have fought three wars.

Sharif visited the disputed Kashmiri border Thursday and praised front-line Pakistani troops as "soldiers of Allah . . . who fear neither the enemy nor death."

The prime minister extolled Pakistan's armed forces and its newly acquired nuclear status, according to an Urdu-language copy of Sharif's speech.

"The nuclear and missile technology has given us great courage," he said in his speech at Gul Dri, about four miles from the border.

"We are a nuclear power now," he said. "We should thank God."

The simmering Kashmir dispute, the cause of two previous wars between Pakistan and India, became a greater concern last year after the two neighbors detonated underground nuclear devices.