The State Department warned Wednesday that "irresponsible elements" in India and Pakistan could lead to conflict despite the wishes of the two countries' leaders.

"The climate is very charged and a serious conflagration could ensue if events spiral out of control," spokesman Richard Boucher said.

His comments, stronger than official statements of recent days, suggested heightened concern here about the potential for conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Boucher said the Bush administration is looking for Indian and Pakistani leaders to do their utmost to reduce violence and to exercise restraint.

"There is a danger that as tensions escalate the leaders could find themselves in a situation in which irresponsible elements can spark a conflict," he said.

Pakistan needs to do all it can to end infiltration into Kashmir, Boucher said. He added that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf must take concrete steps to fulfill his promise not to allow Pakistani territory to be used by terrorists.

Boucher also disclosed that the U.S. ambassador to Ghana, Nancy Powell, will temporarily take charge of the U.S. embassy in Pakistan.

Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin left Pakistan on Wednesday after just nine months on the job so that she could reunite with her teen-age daughters in the United States. Pakistan was considered to be too dangerous for the girls to remain there.