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Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Tuesday that she might visit India later this week, while en route to the Middle East, to urge the country’s leaders not to escalate tensions with Pakistan over Kashmir.

“I am considering visiting India by leaving for Israel one day early,” Kawaguchi told a regular news conference in the morning. She is expected to leave Japan on Thursday, visiting Israel and the Palestinian Authority on Saturday and Sunday.

Both Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and his foreign minister have phoned India and Pakistan repeatedly to urge peace, and Senior Vice Foreign Minister Seiken Sugiura was also sent to the region to try and ease tensions between the two nuclear rivals.

But Kawaguchi wants to talk directly with India’s leaders. In March, she met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar when he visited Japan with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and again in May, when she visited Afghanistan via Pakistan.

Kawaguchi said the government is not considering imposing economic sanctions against India and Pakistan at present. A three-year ban on new loans and grants to the two nations, imposed after their 1998 nuclear tests, was lifted in October.

“At the moment, we are not seeing any new moves,” Kawaguchi said. “It is very important to provide economic assistance to Pakistan to help its democratization.”

Later in the day, Kawaguchi spoke by phone with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell of her plan to visit the Middle East and India.

According to a Foreign Ministry official, Kawaguchi told Powell that she will call on the Palestinians to put an end to the violence. She also said she will offer humanitarian assistance and convey Japan’s support for the Palestinian Authority’s administrative reforms, which include strengthening the rule of law, introducing local autonomy and the streamlining of police organizations.

Powell backed Japan’s efforts and agreed that international coordination and cooperation is necessary, the official said.

Kawaguchi and Powell also discussed ways to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, and agreed to discuss the matter further during their meeting at the Group of Eight foreign ministerial talks to be held in Canada later this month.

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