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PM, Ahmadinejad to meet over dinner

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
Last updated on: April 29, 2008 12:02 IST
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Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will be arriving in India on April 29 at 5 pm after making a stop over in Pakistan en route from Sri Lanka, where he was on a two-day official visit, Iranian envoy Mahdi Nabizadeh said on Monday.

He confirmed that he would be meeting President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his short stay of around five hours in New Delhi.

The meeting between Dr Singh and President Ahmadinejad will conclude with a 'private dinner' in honour of President Ahmadinejad, said Ambassador Nabizadeh.

He said that President Ahmadinejad's visit has raised interest in India. "Indian media, social institutions and organisations have shown interest in meeting him. I am also receiving letters from Indian companies to have meetings with Iran's President," the Ambassador said.

"Due to the fact that the trip is short, we are unable to arrange the meetings," he regretted.

He said that Iran and India's bilateral trade, including oil trade, is already worth $9 billion. The trade is expected to increase 3 to 4 times in five years.

When asked if India is now politically ready to finalise the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, the Ambassador said with a smile, "We hope they will be ready".

He said that after the conclusion of negotiations for the transit fee issue between Pakistan and India, other issues between Iran and India will be taken up.

Ambassador refused to comment on whether the issue of Afghanistan will be discussed.

"Usually in this type of meeting of two top leaders of two countries, bilateral issues are discussed. It will help for preparation for co-operation between two countries. International issues will also be considered," he said. "I hope this trip will bring good results for the region and for both countries," he added.

When asked about the United States' reservations about Ahmadinejad's visit to India, the Ambassador said, "We are neighbours; we have more to co-operate. Our relations will have an effect on the region. What is their (US) purpose? One should verify it".

Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki, commerce minister and oil active minister will accompany President Ahmadinejad.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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