Muslim leaders will gather on Thursday for a rare summit in Pakistan designed to increase trade and investment but likely to be overshadowed by the Gaza conflict as diplomats scramble to arrange a ceasefire.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi and
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, key players in the Middle East, are scheduled to be among those attending the Developing Eight (D8) summit.
The D8 groups Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey, with an estimated total population of one billion people.
Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is also due to attend. Bangladesh and Malaysia will be represented at adviser- and ministerial-level respectively.
The summit will mark the first visit by an Egyptian president to Pakistan in four decades and by the first by a Nigerian leader in 28 years.
Its ambitious goal is to increase trade between member countries from $130 billion to $507 billion by 2018.
D8 leaders are set "to discuss ways to cushion the effects of the global economic recession and climate change and tackle ways to boost trade among themselves", the Pakistani government said in a statement.
Islamabad rarely hosts major international gatherings given the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked violence that has plagued the country since the 9/11 attacks.
Security will be stepped up significantly, not least as the summit coincides with the holy month of Muharram, a magnet for sectarian attacks in Pakistan.
Thousands of extra police and paramilitaries will deploy and construction work has been suspended around the diplomatic enclave to provide "God willing, foolproof security", Islamabad police chief Bani Amin said.
Pakistan wants the summit to boost trade and investment, strengthen its international standing and help "remove misconceptions (about Pakistan) created in a section of international media", the statement said.
The D8 is also due to adopt a charter at what will be its eighth summit. But commentators believe proceedings could be overshadowed by events in the Middle East, where 136 Palestinians and five Israelis have been killed in eight days.
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