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Jan 29 - Feb 04, 2001

Extradition accord with Uzbekistan signed

Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar signed an extradition treaty on Thursday with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov, who hoped that the treaty would establish cooperative relations between the two countries.

The two sides also signed agreements on consular services and customs regulations before addressing a joint press conference.

The Uzbek foreign minister expressed a desire to establish relations with Afghanistan on certain conditions, such as adherence to a policy of non-interference, guarantee of secured borders, elimination of terrorist camps in Afghanistan against Uzbekistan, etc.

Mr Sattar said that at the initiative of the UN secretary- general's special envoy, Frances Vendrell, the Uzbek government had offered to host a reconciliation meeting of all Afghan parties to end civil war.

Both foreign ministers clarified that though a United Nations Security Council resolution banned interaction with the Taliban, the proposed initiative on Afghanistan had come from the UN secretary-general's representative.

They added that Uzbekistan had merely offered to host the meeting.

Answering a question, Mr Kamilov said that though Uzbekistan did not recognize the Taliban and their ideology, it recognized the ground reality that they held sway over 90 per cent of Afghanistan.

He stated that Uzbekistan endorsed a UN arms embargo on the Taliban, adding that it would like the embargo to cover entire Afghanistan, including its northern areas.

He maintained that Uzbekistan would abide by the UN Security Council resolution on Afghanistan. He supported the Pakistan move for a dialogue with India on Kashmir.

Paris Club links more help to reforms

Paris Club has offered more assistance to Pakistan if it completes reforms in the economic and social sectors, Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz told on Wednesday from Paris.

"We assured them that the government is committed to restore true democracy in Pakistan and this went quite well with the creditors of the Paris Club", the minister asserted.

"You must complete the reform agenda and if you do so we will offer more support to Pakistan", the finance minister quoted the Club president as saying.

Mr Aziz said he had also briefed the Club about establishing of democracy at grass-roots level in Pakistan. I told them that the first phase of local governments elections had been over and the second phase would soon be started that would consequently set the tone to hold general elections, he added.

He said that the Paris Club had appreciated the government's efforts to promote good governance and transparency in its agreements with the foreign companies.

Three pacts signed with Tunisia

Pakistan and Tunisia have signed three agreements after talks on a range of issues, including Afghanistan and Kashmir, an official report said on Tuesday.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Habib ben Yahia had met Gen Pervez Musharraf and President Rafiq Tarar on Tuesday after signing the accords with his Pakistani counterpart, Abdul Sattar, on Monday, it said.

Musharraf accepted Yahia's invitation to visit Tunisia and said he hoped something could be arranged at an early date. "A wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues, including Kashmir, Palestine and Afghanistan, were discussed in a frank atmosphere," the APP reported of his meeting with Sattar.

He and Sattar signed agreements on air services, a memorandum of understanding on annual bilateral consultations and a cultural exchange programme.

US court rejects Pakistan request

A US district court in Colombia has rejected Pakistan's request for reviewing its earlier verdict of freezing the bank accounts of Pakistan's agriculture ministry in the Washington branch of National Bank of Pakistan.

The US District Court judge has also allowed the plaintiff Ned Chartering to locate the defendant's (agriculture ministry) assets in the United States to enforce its December 4 judgment in which Pakistan was asked to pay US$268,000 to the plaintiff on account of wheat shipment charges from Turkey in the early 1990s.

IMF wants number of taxes cut

The IMF experts have advised Pakistan to cut down the number of taxes and eliminate the regulatory duty imposed for the protection of local industry.

The advice was given by two IMF technocrats, presently on a visit to Pakistan.

In two separate meetings with the officials of Central Board of Revenue on Wednesday, they lauded the government efforts in expanding tax net and plugging evasion loopholes. However, they observed that the policy to extract bulk of revenue through indirect taxation was against the internationally-accepted norms.

Double taxation talks with Nepal

Pakistan-Nepal talks, on double taxation, are being held in Katmandu on Friday, official sources said on Wednesday.

A CBR delegation, headed by its Chairman Riaz Hussain Naqvi, will visit Katmandu to discuss the issue of double taxation with his Nepalese counterpart.

Presently, Pakistan maintains 10-20% cut in duty on items traded with major SAARC member India, while 30% cut is applied to items traded with other SAARC members, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Maldives.

Pakistan, Finland agree to boost ties

Pakistan and Finland agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation during talks on Monday, an official statement said. Finnish Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jukka Valtasaari and Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq co-chaired the talks, it said.

They reviewed the "entire gamut of bilateral relations, particularly the economic and commercial aspects." The conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan, India-Pakistan relations and nuclear issues were also raised.