South Asian meet to open in Sri Lanka focussing on trade and terror

July 26, 2008 (AFP) – An eight-member South Asian meeting opening in Sri Lanka Sunday will focus on boosting regional trade and stepping up moves to combat terrorism, Colombo’s foreign minister said Saturday. Officials of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) will start meetings Sunday in the run-up to a main two-day summit starting August 2, Rohitha Bogollegama told reporters.

Bogollegama said Colombo was fully prepared for the main summit, the biggest Sri Lanka has hosted since a 1976 meet when over 75 heads of state visited.

“All arrangements are in place to host the summit, which is the biggest heads of state gathering in Colombo since the 1976 Non-Aligned summit,” Bogollegama said.

Sunday’s preparatory meeting and the full summit will involve Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“The European Union took over 50 years… we are only 23 years old,” the minister said of the regional grouping, often dismissed as little more than a talking shop.

The summit is being hosted by Colombo at a cost of nearly three billion rupees (28 million dollars). The 15th summit of SAARC should have been hosted by the Maldives, but the a