PM to Hold Talks With Khemani, Ahmadinejad

New Delhi
PM to Hold Talks With Khemani, Ahmadinejad
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave for Iran on August 28 to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, which will be preceded by crucial bilateral talks with Iran's supreme leader Ayotollah Ali Khemani and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A host of meeting with the leaders of other NAM countries, including Pakistan, is also likely to take place on the sidelines of the 16th Summit of 120-nation grouping, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said while briefing reporters here on Prime Minister's four-day Iran visit.

Singh's bilateral meet with Iranian leadership assumes significance as it will take place at a time when the US is pushing India to reduce engagement with Iran and implement sanctions imposed by some countries over its controversial nuclear programme.

"We had indeed proposed to schedule a meeting with Khemani. During the meeting the Prime Minister will raise all issues for India-Iran bilateral relations and issues of interest and concern to us.

"Peace and security is, indeed, our primary concern given just how important the entire West Asia region, Gulf region, in particular, is for India's security and for Indian economy, both in terms of oil imports and our exports. So, this is our own concern and we don't have to take anybody else is concern...," he said.

India attaches great importance to ties with Iran and the Prime Minister will also seek to boost cooperation in key areas, including trade during his meetings with the Iranian leadership, Mathai said, adding that the two sides will also review the status of bilateral ties.

The US has been pushing India to cut its oil imports from Iran, which accounts 12 per cent of its total crude imports, as part of implementation of the sanctions imposed on the Persian nation. India has been maintaining that it would abide by only those sanctions which are imposed by the UN.

Asked about Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline project, Yash Sinha, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran) in MEA, said the issue would be discussed in next month's meeting here during India-Iran joint working group on hydrocarbons.

Asked whether the February 13 attack on an Israeli diplomat here will figure in the discussions between the leaders of the two countries, he said in general terms, India will certainly emphasise on Iran its desire that Tehran "fully cooperates so that we can arrive at the bottom of the issue".

However, he said MEA has not received the report of the Delhi Police so far in the case. Israel has accused Iran of carrying out the attack on its diplomat, a charge denied by Tehran.

Mathai also said meetings with other leaders are also being scheduled on the sidelines of the Summit on Thursday and Friday.

Meetings with leaders of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal are being planned, he said, adding that India was also looking for a pull-aside with the president of Egypt (the current NAM secretary general).

Specifically asked about meeting with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, the Foreign Secretary refused to give any details.

This will be Manmohan Singh's third NAM summit after Havana (2006) and Sharm el Sheikh (2009) and first bilateral visit at this level to Iran after 2001.
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