NATIONAL

E.U., Russia alarmed at Pak. tests

MOSCOW MAY 29. Russia and the European Union have expressed grave concern over Pakistan's missile tests and urged Islamabad and Delhi to take urgent steps to defuse their tensions.

Pakistan's latest series of ballistic missile tests "cannot help aggravating the situation in South Asia, which is already alarming, and are at variance with the repeatedly declared readiness of the Pakistani leadership to take joint efforts with the international community towards political settlement of the crisis,'' Russia and the E.U., said in a joint statement issued after their one-day summit meeting in Moscow on Wednesday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

``Realising that terrorism is everyone's enemy Russia and the E.U. hope that India and Pakistan make efforts to avoid a new round of confrontation with unpredictable consequences and will act fast to do everything necessary to reduce tension as a first step to resume a productive dialogue aimed at a peaceful resolution of difference,'' the Russia-E.U. statement said.

The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, offered to mediate between India and Pakistan during a regional security conference in Kazakhstan next week.

The Indian and Pakistani Ambassadors to Russia on Tuesday conveyed to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Losyukov, the willingness of their leaders, the Prime Minister, A. B. Vajpayee, and the President, Pervez Musharraf, to meet the Russian leader. Mr. Losyukov said Mr. Putin would hold separate meetings with the Indian and Pakistani leaders.

The Russian President will meet Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Musharraf also as an envoy of the new Russia-NATO Council, the Russian television said.

The Council was set up at a Russia-NATO summit in Italy, whose Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, proposed that Mr. Putin convey to the Indian and Pakistani leaders NATO's concern over the South Asia standoff and the readiness of the alliance to "take responsibility for stability in the region under certain circumstances,'' the television said.

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