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Jan 15 - 21, 2001

Islamabad, Beirut sign two accords

Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday agreed to forge defence cooperation between Beirut and Islamabad.

They were addressing a joint press conference soon after their talks and signing of two agreements on promotion and protection of investment and bilateral trade between the two countries.

Both the leaders said that their talks had focused on cementing their collaboration in all fields, including the defence.

"The two delegations began talks with their desire that we collaborate economically and in all fields of activities, including defence cooperation," said Gen Musharraf in his brief opening remarks.

Answering a question, the Lebanese prime minister said: "The focus of our talks was on the development of relations in all fields."

Mr Hariri said Lebanon was the gateway to the Middle East. It has taken many steps like slashing customs duties to open its economy for investment.

"Lebanon can be used as a base to sell Pakistani products in the Middle East," he said in response to a question.

He said Lebanon could encourage all the businessmen in that area to make investment in Pakistan. Gen Musharraf, responding to a question on the defence cooperation between the two countries, said both sides had been collaborating in the field in the past as well.

Lebanese officials had been coming to Pakistan for training in various courses. Besides Pakistan had bought Mirage aircraft from Lebanon, he added.

"We have certain maintenance facilities and defence production which we could open to Lebanon to expand cooperation between the two sides, Gen Musharraf said.

Pakistan, Jordan to boost ties

The chief executive, Gen Pervez Musharraf, and Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb held in-depth official talks on Tuesday, calling for practical measures to strengthen cooperation in various fields. The Jordanian PM stated that both the sides had expressed the resolve to expand relations in the fields of culture, economy, science & technology.

He hoped that the increased mutual cooperation would yield positive results and help resolve problems facing the two nations.

Reciprocating Mr Ragheb's remarks, the CE said that Islamabad was appreciative of closeness of their existing ties and there was identity of views on many regional and international issues.

"The two sides should identify areas of cooperation to put our ideas into practice for mutual benefit."

Pakistan, Syria sign four pacts

Pakistan and Syria signed on Monday four agreements in various fields to promote cooperation. Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf and Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa Miro inked an overall agreement on general cooperation.

The agreements are: executive programme for cultural cooperation 2001-2005, first executive programme for science and technical cooperation, cooperation agreement between SANA and APP, and the memorandum of understanding on agricultural cooperation.

Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, Science and Technology Minister Dr Attaur Rehman and Commerce Minister Abdul Razzak Dawood signed the agreements on behalf of Pakistan.

Pakistan's ambassador to Damascus Sibte Yahya Naqvi and Syrian Arab News Agency director-general Ali Abd Al-Karim Ali signed the agreement of news cooperation on behalf of APP and SANA, respectively.

Relaxation in some IMF terms likely

Some of the tough and numerous IMF conditionalities may be eased to remove hurdles and help Pakistan meet key fiscal and monetary targets.

The first indication of a possible relaxation has come from the Fund agreeing to Islamabad's request to delay the change-over from fixed rate of return on Defence Savings Certificates to market-determined yield on long-term government bond.

Under the stand by arrangement (SBA), the fixed return on DSCs was to end on Jan 1. On the same date, the Central Directorate of National Savings (CDNS) however informed all its outlets that "the DCS issued from Jan 1 to June 30, shall carry the existing rates of profit and shall remain valid for 10 years."

US seeks Pakistan's help

Pakistan and US officials are meeting in Islamabad on Friday to discuss Washington's new move at WTO forum, which aims at eliminating export subsidies on farm products, increasing market access, reducing role of state trading entities and limiting domestic support to the farmers.

Official sources told that deputy US administrator of International Trade Policy (ITP), Patricia Sheikh, is meeting federal secretaries of commerce and agriculture to explain the US government's agriculture negotiations' proposals, submitted to the WTO and seek Pakistan's support on these issues.

ECC sets up body on sugar imports

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet has set up a ministerial committee and empowered it to make necessary adjustment in the duty on the import of sugar as demanded by the All Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (APSMA) and cane growers.

Federal Minister for Agriculture Khair Mohammad Junejo and Minister for Commerce, Industries and Production Abdul Razzak Dawood would be the members of ECC's sub-committee on sugar import, which is authorized to make necessary adjustment when required.

Riba-free system to take time

The government is not yet ready to introduce interest-free banking because of the anticipated repercussions of the change over on Pakistan's relations with the international donor agencies and foreign commercial banks.

Official sources told on Monday that Pakistan, which was still facing tough time from the multilateral agencies and G-8 countries despite getting $596 million facility from the IMF to avoid default, will experience more difficulties if it decided to go for Riba-free banking from July 1 this year.