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UN chief, major world powers call for 'maximum restraint' by India, Pakistan

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United Nations/Hanoi/London, Feb 27: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is following the situation in the subcontinent where the Indian Air Force struck a “militant base” inside Pakistan territory and is calling for "maximum restraint" by both countries, his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.

Guterres is on his way back to New York from Geneva and Dujarric told reporters, "I spoke to the Secretary-General not long ago, before he boarded his plane. He is obviously following the situation very closely and reiterates his urgent appeal to both the government of India and the government of Pakistan to exercise maximum restraint to ensure that the situation does not further deteriorate".

Asked about reports that there were 350 casualties, Dujarric said, "We don't have any information on possible casualties. We have seen different press reports."

India has not officially given a number for those killed in the strikes beyond a statement by Foreign Secretary Vijay K. Gokhale that "a very large number of JeM terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jehadis who were being trained for fidayeen action were eliminated".

Pakistan has denied that there were casualties and asserted that the bombs hit an uninhabited area.

A suicide bomber attacked a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama on February 14 in Kashmir killing 49 troopers. JeM has said it had carried out the attack.

In Tuesday's retaliation for the attack, IAF Mirage 2000 fighter jets backed by an Emb 145 early warning aircraft struck an area in Balakot in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the US, the UK, China, Russia and the European Union on Wednesday urged both India and Pakistan to exercise utmost restraint and avoid further military activity by the nuclear-armed neighbours.

Tensions between India and Pakistan rose Wednesday after Pakistan claimed it shot down two Indian fighter jets over Pakistani air space and arrested a pilot.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan tried to defuse the tension by saying war is futile and can lead to unknown consequences while making an oblique reference to the nuclear weapons that both countries possess.

Worried over escalating tensions, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke separately with foreign ministers of India and Pakistan, urging them to avoid "further military activity".

"I expressed to both ministers that we encourage India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, and avoid escalation at any cost," Pompeo, who is accompanying President Donald Trump at the second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said in Vietnam.

In London, Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain is deeply concerned over rising tensions between India and Pakistan, urging both the nuclear-armed nations to exercise restraint to avoid further escalation.

"The UK is deeply concerned about rising tensions between India and Pakistan and urgently calls for restraint on both sides to avoid further escalation. We are in regular contact with both countries, urging dialogue and diplomatic solutions to ensure regional stability," she said.

In response to an urgent question on "The situation in Jammu & Kashmir" tabled during the weekly Prime Minister's Questions session, May told the House of Commons that the UK remained in regular contact with both countries and was working towards de-escalating tensions.

Russia has expressed "serious concern" over the escalation of tensions.

Moscow called on both sides to exercise "restraint", adding that existing problems should be solved by "political and diplomatic means".

For a second day, China urged India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and said the two sides should engage in dialogue to uphold the peace and stability in the region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang's remarks came after Pakistan targeted military installations in India in response to Indian counter-terrorism in Balakot.

"I understand that in the latest development Pakistan says it had shot down two Indian aircraft and captured Indian pilots," Lu said in Beijing.

In Brussels, the European Union's diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini urged India and Pakistan to show the "utmost restraint" in their escalating confrontation.

"We expect both countries to now exercise utmost restraint and avoid any further escalation of the situation," Mogherini said in a statement. (Agencies)

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