PM to host dinner for hounoured guest Ahmadinejad(Roundup)

April 28th, 2008 - 11:45 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 28 (IANS) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrives here Tuesday on a five-hour working visit for talks, including on the tri-nation gas pipeline project. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will host a “private dinner” for the visiting Iranian president, an honour that he reserves only for “special friends”. Since he moved to 7, Race Course Road, Singh has hosted a few private dinners for his honoured guests, that include among others some leaders from the United States.

“It is an important gesture that shows India attaches great importance to developing relations with Iran,” official sources told IANS Monday.

The Iranian president arrives here Tuesday afternoon from Sri Lanka. He has already been to Pakistan during his whistle-stop tour of three South Asian nations. He will be in New Delhi for only five hours, but Iranian officials are hopeful that the visit will be meaningful.

“I hope the president’s trip, although very short, will have good results for the region and for both countries,” Iran’s Amabssador to India Syed Mehdi Nabizadeh told IANS.

Ahmadinejad is scheduled to call on President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan. But his “substantial” meeting is scheduled with the prime minister at his Race Course Road residence. The External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan will also be present at the dinner meeting between the two leaders.

Both India and Iran are conscious that Ahmadinejad’s proposed visit to New Delhi has already generated much interest both in India and elsewhere, and what leaders of the two countries say would be keenly watched.

Iran tried to describe the US’ opposition to the proposed tri-nation gas pipeline as an attempt to work against the “economic prosperity of the region”. India has pointed out that it will not initiate a discussion on Iran’s nuclear programme during talks with Ahmadinejad.

“We will not raise the nuclear issue with Iran,” an official of the external affairs ministry, who did not wish to be identified, said Monday. “But we will not shy away from discussing it if the Iranian president decides to raise it during talks with our leaders,” the official added.

The Iranian ambassador told IANS Monday: “It will be a general bilateral visit. The pipeline will be discussed, but other regional and international issues will also be discussed.” But he added, “The discussions will prepare the ground for the pipeline project to move forward.”

In a clear reference to the US’ opposition to the pipeline, Nabizadeh said, “If somebody opposes this decision, we have to see what’s their purpose and to verify it.”

In Pakistan, one of Ahmadinejad’s main focus has been on discussing steps for the early execution of the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

“We know this cooperation will help the people of the region and raise their economic condition,” the Iranian ambassador replied when asked by IANS why the US was opposing the proposed $7.5 billion pipeline that will bring Iranian gas to India via Pakistan.

“We are neighbours. More cooperation will have positive effect on the region and on the economics of the region,” he pointed out while projecting the pipeline as a symbol of peace and prosperity entwining three important countries of the area.

Indian officials said a number of other issues of interest to both countries, especially the developments in Iraq and Afghanistan, are likely to come up for discussion at Tuesday’s meeting between Manmohan Singh and Ahmadinejad.

“We have major stakes in Afghanistan and it will be an ideal opportunity for us to get a view from the Iranian president on how the situation there is evolving, especially in the wake of reports about re-grouping by the Taliban,” an external affairs ministry official said.

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