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India tries to calm fears of war

"Nobody wants" a conflict, the prime minister said. His words came as tensions with Pakistan escalated.

NEW DELHI, India - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tried to allay fears yesterday about the possibility of war with Pakistan, saying "nobody wants war." His comments came amid rising calls in India for military action, and a day after the Pakistani air force conducted war training exercises with fighter jets above Pakistan's major cities.

"The issue is not war. The issue is terror and the territory in Pakistan being used to provoke, to aid and abet terrorism," Singh said outside Parliament. India wants Pakistan to "dismantle the terror machine," he said, and Islamabad "knows what that implies."

The nuclear-armed neighbors have traded angry rhetoric since India accused "elements" in Pakistan of planning the three-day siege in Mumbai last month that left at least 160 people dead, including six Americans, and injured more than 230. The gunmen reached Mumbai by boat and attacked a restaurant, two luxury hotels, a train station, and a Jewish center.

India has accused the banned Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba and demanded that Islamabad snuff out groups that fuel terror in India.

Pakistan, while denying any government role in the attack, has offered to help in a joint probe and has detained some suspects. But India has rejected the steps as merely cosmetic and demanded more effective action.

Singh's comments came after India's foreign minister said on two occasions that India was keeping all its options open, implying the possibility of military action. Yesterday, Pakistan's army chief reacted to the hard-talk emanating from India.

Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani told the Pakistani daily The News that the country's armed forces were "fully prepared to meet any eventuality, as the men are ready to sacrifice for their country." Kayani said Pakistan would react "within minutes" of any military strike by India.

During a visit to Islamabad, Interpol chief Ronald Noble said yesterday that Pakistan had agreed to cooperate with the global police force to find the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. However, he said India had not shared information about the gunmen.

"To date, India's government has not authorized Indian police agencies to enter any data related to the Mumbai attacks into Interpol database," he said at a news conference in Pakistan.

Pakistan's top interior ministry official, Rehman Malik, said Pakistan had received no evidence from Indian authorities about the involvement of Pakistani nationals in the assault in Mumbai. Police in Indian Kashmir said yesterday that over the weekend they arrested three men of Pakistani origin who they contended were planning to drive an explosives-laden vehicle into building in India.

According to Kuldeep Khoda, the director general of police in Kashmir, the men had been asked "to launch action in our state" and "create disturbances."

"Their personal search also revealed certain incriminating documents and some suspicious identity cards," he said. He said one of the men was a Pakistani soldier.