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    Trilateral summit begins in Islamabad

    ISLAMABAD (PAN): Afghan, Pakistani and Iranian presidents on Friday began their trilateral summit on coping with regional challenges in Islamabad, an official said.

    Presidents Hamid Karzai, Asif Ali Zardari and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will focus on cooperation in combating terrorism, curbing transnational organised crime and border management.

    High on the agenda for the meeting are peace talks with Afghan militants and enhanced regional trade ties among the neighbours, an Afghan government official said on condition of anonymity.

    The source said sanctions against Iran would also come under discussion at the third three-way meeting, which is expected to confer on ways of preventing the cross-border movement of insurgents.

    At a breakfast with senior Pakistani journalists, Karzai said he had urged Pakistan to resume International Security Assistance Force supplies and enhance taxes on them.

    The key supply route for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan was closed after an ISAF airstrike on Pakistani security checkpoints in the Mohmand tribal region. Scores of Pakistani soldiers were killed and wounded in the raids.

    In response to a query about increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan, the president said Islamabad should not worry about New Delhi’s role in his country. Pakistan and India had already entered trade agreements, he pointed out.

    Karzai said the Afghan National Army (ANA) had the option of being trained by the Pakistan military. However, a lingering trust deficit between the neighbours impeded the ANA training in Pakistan, he explained.

    Hours ahead of the summit, the three presidents met behind closed doors in Islamabad late on Thursday, a spokesman for the Afghan leader told Pajhwok Afghan News.

    However, Aimal Faizai said he had no details of the closed-door session, followed by a dinner hosted by Zardari. Karzai said his administration was supportive of all efforts at bringing durable peace to his country and ending the war.

    They were not opposed to the opening of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, but preferred Turkey or Saudi Arabia as a venue for reconciliaton parleys, Faizi quoted Karzai as saying.

    On Thursday, Prime Minister Yusfu Raza Gilani informed Karzai for the first time that Pakistan had sent a high-level Taliban delegation to Qatar for possible peace talks with US.

    The meeting was also attended by Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister Rahman Malik, Army Chief Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Gen. Shuja Pasha.

    The Afghan president was assisted by his Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul, Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Daudzai and other senior officials.

    Gilani told Karzai the Pakistani government had arrested two suspects in connection with the assassination of High Peace Council chief, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed in a suicide attack on his Kabul residence on Sept. 20.

    Gilani also sought Afghanistan’s support for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan. He urged Karzai to ensure Afghan soil was not used against Pakistan.