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    Karzai off to Beijing for SCO summit

    KABUL (PAN): At the head of a high-powered ministerial delegation, President Hamid Karzai flew to Beijing on Tuesday morning to participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit.

    On the sidelines of the important regional meeting, Karzai is expected to hold talks with foreign leaders on bilateral issues, the Presidential Palace said in a statement.

    He is expected to meet his Chinese, Russian, Iranian and Pakistani counterparts in Beijing on crucial issues facing Afghanistan and the region, presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told Pajhwok Afghan News.

    Karzai will attend the 12th summit from June 6-7, the first since Afghanistan was awarded observer status. Previously, Afghanistan was invited as a guest nation to SCO gatherings.

    During his visit, Karzai will sign a document on the strategic cooperation agreement with Chinese President Hu Jintao. The accord will pave the ground for long-term cooperation between the two countries in political, economic, security and cultural spheres.

    Beijing has pledged $20 million in assistance to Kabul. The Afghan government has signed similar pacts with the United States of America, Germany, Britain, Italy, Australia, France and India.

    An inter-governmental organisation, the SCO was established in June 2001 by Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan have observer status, while Belarus and Sri Lanka are its dialogue partners of SCO.

    Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmay Rasul, National Security Advisor Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani, Agriculture Minister Mohammad Asif Rahimi, head of Karzai’s office Abdul Karim Khurram and presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi are part of the president’s delegation.