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``Talks with Manmohan will be significant''

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, JAN. 31. Building hopes and hype on the coming meeting between the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and his Pakistani counterpart, Shaukat Aziz, on the sidelines of next week's South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Dhaka, Pakistan today maintained that it would be ``very significant.''

The Foreign Office spokesman, Masood Khan, said Islamabad preferred the dialogue process to be elevated to a ``higher level of summitry'' to make it more meaningful. ``Pakistan leadership has said that it wants this dialogue process to move forward to a higher-level summitry. In that sense the meeting is going to be very significant,'' he said in response to a question.

The observations of the spokesman, made at the weekly press briefing, come a day after the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, expressed disappointment at what he termed as `pace' of dialogue process with India.

India's response

During his visit to Davos for the World Economic Forum meeting last week, Mr. Aziz said he expected response from India on gas pipeline from Iran, Muzaffarabad-Srinagar bus link, establishment of bank branches in each other's countries and allowing operation of private airlines when he meets Dr. Singh in Dhaka.

``We have to sort out the issues relating to energy. The Energy corridor is now available for India, Iran and Pakistan,'' Mr. Khan said. However he stressed that India's condition linking it to opening of economic and trade issues was not acceptable.

Manmohan's visit

The spokesman said Mr. Aziz would also discuss Pakistan's invitation to Dr. Singh to visit Islamabad this year. ``The visit can take place in March or any other time''.

Mr. Aziz would lead Pakistan's delegation to the 13th SAARC summit, to be held in Dhaka from February 6 to 7. Meetings of the Council of Ministers on February 5, the Standing Committee on February 3 and 4 and Programming Committee on February 1 and 2 would precede the summit, the spokesman said.

Mr. Kasuri would attend the Council of Ministers and the Foreign Secretary, Riaz Khokhar, would represent Pakistan in the Standing Committee.

Pakistan assumed chairmanship of the 12th summit held in Islamabad in January 2004. At the Dhaka summit, Pakistan will hand over the chairmanship to Bangladesh.,

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