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Nov 21, 4:34 PM EST

Sharif asks Obama to play role on Kashmir issue

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ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday asked the U.S. President Barack Obama to play a role in resolving the issue of Kashmir when he travels to neighboring India, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.

In a statement, the ministry said Sharif made this request when Obama called him on Friday. It said Sharif and Obama discussed recent incidents of Indian troops firing across the Line of Control that divides the disputed Kashmir region. The two leaders spoke hours after Pakistan blamed the Indian army for killing a soldier in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The statement said Sharif told Obama that the recent cancellation of ministerial-level talks by India and the cross-border gunfire incidents indicated that India was averse to normalization of relations with Pakistan. The White House confirmed that Obama called Sharif from aboard Air Force One while en route to Las Vegas, saying the two leaders discussed efforts to "advance shared interests in a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan and region." Read aloud by White House spokesman Eric Schultz, the statement made no specific reference to Kashmir.

"Thus, while we remain open to the resumption of bilateral dialogue, the onus is on India to create a conducive environment in this regard," the Pakistani statement quoted Sharif as telling Obama. Sharif urged "Obama to take up the cause of Kashmir with the Indian leadership, as its early resolution would bring enduring peace, stability and economic cooperation to Asia," it said.

It said Obama assured Sharif that he would visit Pakistan soon.

Earlier on Friday, the foreign ministry announced that a Pakistani soldier was killed a day earlier in the Pandu sector along the border, which splits Kashmir between Pakistan and India.

It said Pakistan has a lodged protest with India "over the unprovoked firing and mortar shelling by the India forces".

Exchanges of fire are common along Kashmir's heavily guarded Line of Control. But such incidents intensified last month when violence erupted in the region during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Both sides often blame each other for initiating the incidents.

Indian and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.

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