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Pak striving to make SAARC a vehicle for development:Musharraf

Written by: Staff
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Islamabad, Apr 1 (UNI) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has asserted that his country was striving to make the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) a dynamic vehicle for development while promoting cooperation in the region.

Addressing a banquet hosted in honour of visiting Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday, he haved the conclusion of the South Asian free trade agreement (SAFTA) as a ''milestone on the road to regional prosperity'' the state the associated press of pakistan (APP) today reported.

Speaking about the ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan, specially the Kashmir issue, Gen Musharraf said, ''We must seize the opportunity and demonstrate sincerity, flexibility and courage to solve this longstanding issue and usher in a new era of progress and harmony in South Asia.'' Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, the senate Chairman, members of federal cabinet, services chiefs and senior officials attended the banquet.

Referring to the admission of Afghanistan as a SAARC member and observer status for China and Japan at the Dhaka Summit last year, the President said it would help shape the regional body's future direction.

''This will reinforce the capacity of the organisation to secure the cause of peace and prosperity in South Asia,'' he said.

Talking about the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, President Musharraf said it was time to translate them into mutually beneficial economic ties.

Asserting that both Pakistan and Sri Lanka have been victims of terrorism, he said the two countries are determined to defeat the menace in the interest of peace and progress.

He also welcomed the resumption of peace talks between the Lankan government and the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapakse, while referring to his talks with Gen Musharraf, said the two countries have been able to build on the strong foundation of their relations based in history and culture.

He appreciated President Musharraf's efforts for augmenting trade and economic ties.

Pakistan and Sri Lanka also signed an agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters and three MoUs on cultural exchange programme and to boost cooperation in education and tourism fields.

UNI XC YA RAI1919

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