Pranab Mukherjee leaves on three-day visit to Egypt

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New Delhi, July 1 (UNI) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee left here today for Egypt on a three-day visit for discussions with his Egyptian counterpart Ahmed Abdul Gheit on a wide range of issues aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.

The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), UN reforms, energy security, WTO, bilateral Defence cooperation and trade and business relations are expected to come up during the discussions, officials said.

The visit, at the invitation of Mr Gheit, is the first by an Indian Foreign Minister to the country during the past seven years.

India was Egypt's fourth largest trading partner and the largest importer of Egyptian products in 2007, the External Affairs Ministry said.

Bilateral trade amounted to 2.356 billion US dollars. Indian investments in Egypt, currently estimated at 750 million US Dollars, are expected to go up to 2 billion Dollars by 2010.

Egypt will host the NAM Summit in July 2009.

''The visit is expected to reinforce and diversify the strong and deep-rooted bilateral ties between India and Egypt,'' the officials added.

The two countries last month discussed ways to enhance Defence Cooperation and greater interaction between their respective Armed Forces. Both sides agreed to send soldiers to each other's Defence Institutes for training.

A six-member Egyptian Defence Delegation was on a week-long visit to India to participate in the 2nd Indo-Egypt Joint Defence Committee Meeting.

India and Egypt, both members of the Non-Aligned Movement, are emerging stabilising forces in South Asia and West Asia.

UNI RB SB CS1955

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