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BIMST-EC countries to conclude FTA before next Summit in Feb.

Written by: Staff
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New Delhi, Aug 9 (UNI) The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral, Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMST-EC) Ministerial meeting here today resolved to conclude the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) before the next Summit in February 2007 and agreed to enhance cooperation in areas including counter-terrorism, energy security, trade and investment and tourism and culture.

Foreign Ministers of the BIMST-EC countries who met here today for a day-long Ninth Meeting of the Grouping, reiterated their commitment to the founding objectives and principles of BIMST-EC to accelerate economic and social growth in the region.

Those who attended included Foreign Ministers of Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Myanmar and Thailand. Nepal was represented by its Finance Minister and India by Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed.

The Ministerial meeting was preceded by a day-long conference of Senior Officials of BIMST-EC yeesterday.

An External Affairs Ministry spokesman said the Ministers also collectively called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who told them that the Grouping should move as fast as possible towards concluding the FTA.

Dr Singh also said that BIMST-EC could be a link between South Asia and South-East Asia and a building block for the East Asian community.

Mr Ahamed held a bilateral meeting with Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera and Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon on the sidelines of the Ministerial meeting.

During the meeting with Mr Samaraweera, Mr Ahamed stressed tehe importance of resumption of dialogue and peaceful negotiations and the futility of violence and military solution to the conflict.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Minister assured Mr Ahamed that Colombo was interested in solving the ethnic problem through peaceful negotiations. But LTTE's ''intransigence'' was coming in the way.

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