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SAARC summit: Leaders to reach Dhaka tonight

The twice-postponed 13th SAARC Summit opens on Saturday with economic cooperation and terrorism on top of the agenda.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2005 03:40 IST

South Asian leaders arrive in the Bangladesh capital on Friday to attend the twice-postponed 13th SAARC Summit opening on Saturday with economic cooperation and terrorism on top of the agenda.

Heads of government and state from six countries will arrive by Friday night for the two-day summit even as the capital has been thrown under a tight security blanket with several thousand armed force personnel already deployed. Many areas in the capital have been kept off limits for common people to ensure security of the South Asian leaders.

The Bangladesh government has mobilised a combined security force of the army, paramilitary troopers and police to put up a security bulwark in and around the city.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia will receive the dignitaries at the Zia International Airport as they arrive between 2.45 pm and midnight (local time).

Bhutanese Prime Minister Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup will be the first to arrive while Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga will be the last.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nepalese King Gyanendra and Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will arrive before midnight.

Some of the foreign ministers of the regional grouping had bilateral meetings and are scheduled to attend the council of ministers' meeting at Sheraton Hotel on Friday morning to finalise the SAARC agenda and place it before the top leaders for consideration.

The council meeting, with Bangladesh Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan in the chair, will deal with a number of issues including poverty, economic cooperation, progress in implementation of the conventions on terrorism that the group had signed earlier.

They will also consider recommendations of the standing committee and place them before the top leaders.

The inauguration of the summit will take place at Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference centre on Saturday morning.

Before the inaugural session, the leaders will visit the National Mausoleum in Savar to pay homage to the martyrs who laid down their lives during the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971 and also the grave of former Bangladesh president Ziaur Rahman, who mooted the idea of a South Asian regional forum.

At the inaugural session, current SAARC chairperson and the Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will confer the SAARC award posthumously to Ziaur Rahman for his outstanding contribution to the regional grouping.

Tarique Rahman, eldest son of Ziaur Rahman, will receive the award.

First Published: Nov 11, 2005 10:55 IST