Qureshi not to attend SAARC Foreign Ministers'' meet in Bhutan

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Jan 27 (PTI) Foreign Minister Shah MahmoodQureshi will not attend SAARC Foreign Ministers'' meeting to beheld in Bhutan early next month and Pakistan will berepresented by his deputy, official sources said today.

Qureshi decided not to attend the SAARC ForeignMinisters'' meet in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu on February8-9 so that focus would not be diverted from a meeting betweenthe Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan at the samevenue, the sources in the Pakistan government told PTI.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistanicounterpart Salman Bashir are scheduled to meet on the marginsof the SAARC Foreign Secretaries'' meet in Thimphu duringFebruary 6-7.

The meeting is aimed at exploring ways to revive theIndia-Pakistan peace process that has been stalled since the2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

"There was a feeling that Foreign Minister Qureshi''spresence at the SAARC meeting and speculation about a meetingwith his Indian counterpart in Thimphu would divert attentionand focus from the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries," said asource.

Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Malik Amad Khanwill represent Pakistan at the SAARC Foreign Ministers'' meetin Thimphu.

The sources also said that Qureshi is expected to visitNew Delhi in March for talks with his Indian counterpart S MKrishna.

The two countries have exchanged several proposals forreviving the peace process in the run-up to the meeting of theForeign Secretaries.

In these proposals, Pakistan has pushed for thefull-fledged revival of the composite dialogue and theinclusion of all issues in the proposed parleys, includingwhat it describes as the "core issue" of Kashmir.

India has favoured a phased resumption of the peaceprocess.

It has also pushed Pakistan to prosecute the perpetratorsof the terror attacks on Mumbai that killed 166 people.

In recent days, several Indian leaders have expressedconcern at the slow pace of the trial of seven Pakistanis,including Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi,charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks.

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