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PM to attend NAM summit

New Delhi, Aug 25 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves Tuesday for Tehran to attend the NAM summit Aug 30-31, preceded by a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Manmohan Singh will seek to reinvigorate ties with Iran at the meeting with Ahmadinejad Wednesday during which the two leaders will discuss a range of issues, including trade, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters here Saturday.

"Our relations have been strong. As for trade, the balance is in favour of Iran and we would concentrate on increasing trade," Mathai, who will Sunday attend a trilateral India-Afghanistan-Iran meeting in Tehran ahead of the NAM summit, said.

India’s imports from Iran in 2011-12 were at $12 billion and exports were at $3 billion.

Asked whether Washington had raised its concerns over Iran at the meeting here earlier this week between visiting US Permanent Representative to the UN Susan Rice and Indian officials, including Mathai, the foreign secretary said: "We did discuss issues relating to Iran but informally."

Pressed whether India would convey the US concerns on Iran, Mathai replied: "Peace and security are our (India’s) primary concerns. This is our concern and we don’t have to take anyone else’s concern as a priority."

To a query on whether the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project was still on, Yash Sinha, joint secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran), who was also present at the briefing, said the issue would be discussed at next month’s meeting in New Delhi of the India-Iran joint working group on hydrocarbons.

According to Mathai, meetings are also planned on the sidelines of the NAM summit between Manmohan Singh and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as also the leaders of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal. He, however, would not go into specifics of what was expected of the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

"We are also hoping for a pull-aside with the president of Egypt (the currrent NAM secretary general)," Mathai added.

This will be Manmohan Singh’s third NAM summit after Havana (2006) and Sharm el Sheikh (2009).

Asked about India’s expectations from the summit, Mathai said: "NAM remains as relevant today as when it was created (in 1961). We need to re-invigorate the movement for a greater focus on the issues of global governance, reform of international institutions, food security and energy."

"The time has come to give grater emphasis to global issues," he added.

Questioned about New Delhi’s stand on the Iran’s reported move to press for a resolution on Syria at the NAM summit, Mathai said India did not believe that the declaration that would be adopted would go beyond what had been stated in the final document of the ministerial meeting of the NAM coordinating bureau at Sharm el Sheikh in May.

On Syria, the document says: "The Ministers took note of the efforts of the international community to deal with the situation in Syria. They welcomed the efforts by (former UN secretary general) Mr. Kofi Annan, and called for full implementation of the joint envoy’s plan and its six points, and the Security Council resolutions" on the issue.

"We fully endorse this position," Mathai said.

–Indo-Asian News Service