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Powell Begins South Asia Trip in India - 2004-03-15


U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is arriving in India today (Monday), beginning a trip through South Asia focusing on renewed peace talks between India and Pakistan and the hunt for al-Qaida and Taleban fighters near the Afghanistan border.

In New Delhi, his meetings with top Indian officials will include a review of recent bilateral agreements on technology exchanges. Speaking to members of the U.S. Congress a few days ago, Mr. Powell said the United States has a "new relationship" with India that is powerful and growing.

Mr. Powell's South Asia trip is his first visit to the region in nearly two years. He left Washington late Sunday.

In Pakistan (later this week), Mr. Powell will discuss recent revelations that the Islamabad government's top nuclear scientist transferred weapons secrets to North Korea, Libya and Iran.

The Secretary of State says he wants to show the United States' support for what he calls Pakistan and India's "farsighted" efforts to settle their differences over Kashmir and other issues. The last time Mr. Powell visited the region, the nuclear-armed countries appeared to be on the verge of war, with troops massed along their border.

During a brief stop in Kabul, Mr. Powell is expected to hold talks with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai about the stepped-up hunt for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, as well as plans for Afghan elections later this year.

Secretary Powell is due to attend a conference on Afghan reconstruction at the end of this month in Berlin.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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