Syrian president arrives in India after gap of 30 years

June 17th, 2008 - 8:58 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived here Tuesday for a five-day state visit that comes 30 years after his father visited the country as Syrian president in 1978. The president, accompanied by the Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad, four ministers and a delegation, reached here by a special flight at the Air Force Station at about 5.45 p.m. He was received by Minister Of State For External Affairs E. Ahamed.

The Syrian leader’s delegation include Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, Economy and Trade Minister Amer Husni Lutfi, Minister of Telecommunication and Technology Ehmad Sabouni and Minister for Expatriates Bouthaina Shaaban.

The operational part of the visit will be Wednesday, when a ceremonial welcome will be held at the forecourt of the presidential palace after which al-Assad will hold delegation level and one-to-one talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at Hyderabad House.

An agreement on avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors is expected to be signed after the talks.

The Syrian president will also address a luncheon meeting of the three apex chambers of commerce and industry.

The Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani will call on him at the Oberoi hotel. He will also hold meetings with Vice President Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia.

The Syrian president is also scheduled to visit the National Informatics Centre. The First Lady will meanwhile have a separate programme to visit projects by voluntary organisations.

President Pratibha Patil will host a banquet for the visiting president and his delegation Wednesday evening at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace.

President al-Assad is scheduled to address the media on Thursday, before he leaves for Agra and Bangalore. He will be leaving for Damascus on the morning of June 21.

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