Council of Ministers express optimism about SAARC Summit outcome

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Colombo, July 31 : Foreign Ministers of the eight SAARC nations - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka - today expressed optimism about the outcome of the 15th SAARC Summit to be held here on August 2 and 3.

"I have very positive expectations from the summit and it will be a successful summit," said Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

Qureshi also confirmed that he will be meeting his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on the sidelines of the summit, and both would be reviewing the current state of bilateral relations.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhary told ANI that: "It will be an outstanding summit and we will be able to deliver for the people of SAARC nations."

The two ministers were speaking ahead of the 30th session of the Council of Ministers, which got underway at the heavily guarded Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference hall (BMICH) here, with India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee handing over the chair to his Sri Lankan counterpart Rohita Bogollagama.

Although key regional economic issues are to be discussed at the ministerial level meeting, terrorism is likely to override all other issues as most of the participating countries mainly India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have recently witnessed some of the deadliest terrorist strikes.

The meeting of the Council of Ministers will review the implementation of the decisions and recommendations of the 14th SAARC Summit held in New Delhi in April 2007.

During the two-day meeting, the Ministers are expected to deliberate extensively on issues of urgent regional concern, especially food security, energy cooperation and climate change.

The meeting will finalise the agenda for the August 2-3 SAARC Summit.

The Ministerial meet is taking place in Colombo amidst tight security.

The Sri Lankan Government has deployed 19,000 additional security personnel to provide protection for visiting leaders.

Elite commandos of Special Protection group have already reached here. They will give protection to Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh when he arrives here on August 1.

So hyped up is the security threat that domestic flights to northern Jaffna are to be suspended during the Summit. Sri Lankan Civil Aviation Authority Director General Parakrama Dissanayake confirmed this.

Sri Lankan defence forces have been placed on high alert for possible attacks by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during the summit. The military is also on alert.

The Sri Lankan air defence system now covers key installations in and around Colombo as well as approaches from northern jungles where the Tigers have their bases.

ANI

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