It will be the first meeting between Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Premier Manmohan Singh since India's change of government.

Musharraf's meeting with Singh at the opening of the UN General Assembly next week is expected to give a push to the sluggish dialogue on Kashmir, a foreign ministry official said on Saturday. 

"It is going to be an important meeting," said Information Minister Shaikh Rashid, who will accompany Musharraf.

"It will be the first time the two leaders are going to see each other. People in Pakistan and India are praying for the success of the meeting between the two leaders," he added.

Focus on Kashmir

The ongoing Kashmir dispute was the focus of inconclusive talks by both Pakistani and Indian foreign secretaries and foreign ministers earlier this month in New Delhi, though both sides jointly expressed the hope the dialogue would lead to a resolution.

This will be the first time for Singh
to meet his Pakistani counterpart

Islamabad is keen on a timeframe for progress on Kashmir, the Himalayan state divided between Pakistan and India that has been the cause of two of their wars.

But in a sign of the entrenched violence the leaders will have to tackle, renewed violence flared in the volatile region as suspected separatists barged into the homes of three civilians, beheading one and fatally shooting the other two.

The unidentified assailants broke into a house in Punch district, then pulled the homeowner from his bed and beheaded him, said SM Sahai, an inspector-general of police.

Separately, attackers broke into a house in nearby Rajouri district, dragged the two occupants outside and shot them dead, Sahai said. The area is 220km northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.

Victims were 'informers'

In both incidents, the attackers accused their victims of being police informers, Sahai said.

Also in Punch on Saturday, army and police acting on a tip assaulted a suspected rebel hide-out, killing five of them in a gun battle, Sahai told The Associated Press.

Sahai said those killed belonged to the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a rebel group fighting for the merger of the Indian portion of Kashmir with Pakistan. There was no independent confirmation of the police claim.

At least a dozen separatist groups have been fighting Indian security forces since 1989 seeking independence for the Himalayan region of Kashmir or its merger with mostly Muslim Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.