SAARC secys dwell on summit agenda

Colombo, July 29:

Officials of SAARC nations began talks here today to prepare the groundwork for a summit later this week that will focus on trade and terrorism.

Delegates from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, The Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka began discussing arrangements for the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC, starting on Saturday.

Sri Lanka has ramped up security in its already tightly guarded capital to unprecedented levels as it prepares to host regional leaders for the summit amid an escalating conflict with Tamil Tiger separatist rebels.

The foreign secretary-level talks conclude tomorrow, and ministers will meet on Thursday to review the agenda for their leaders, officials said. “Spiralling food and oil prices and ways to offset the burden imposed by these on our economies will also be discussed” an Indian foreign ministry official said.

Leaders are expected to set up the SAARC Development Fund and agree to extend mutual legal assistance and cooperation in combating terrorism, he said. “Poverty alleviation and development issues ... are also on the agenda,” he said, adding that SAARC members will also complete formalities on the entry of Afghanistan, the newest country to join the grouping.

Fighting kills 37:

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan troops have killed at least 34 Tamil Tiger rebels and lost three of their own in the latest clashes in the island’s north, the defence ministry said on Tuesday. Security forces fought with the LTTE in the northern Wanni region where the forces have been trying to advance into the rebel-held territory for weeks. — AFP