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KARACHI, July 9: Envoys of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco in Pakistan have said that the upcoming visit of President Gen Pervez Musharraf to the three countries would not only promote stronger mutual ties but also help in breaking new ground for more dynamic growth of commercial, cultural and political relations.

Gen Musharraf is to undertake a week-long visit from July 14 to these Maghreb countries for talks with Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, President Abdelaziz Boutteflika of Algeria and King Mohammed V1 of Morocco.

Replying to questions by Dawn, the envoys underlined shared experiences and goals of their nations and Pakistan and felt that the visit would help identify and explore fields of further cooperation.

All the envoys, Lamine Benzarti of Tunisia, Aissa Seferdjeli of Algeria and Ahmed El Ahaidi of Morocco, view the Musharraf visit as a move to accord specific importance to the Maghreb countries. Pakistan’s Arab policy, observers point out, has focused on the Gulf countries and the visit will give it an African dimension.

Diplomatic circles believe that issues of terrorism, recognition of Israel and sending of troops to Iraq are also likely themes of discussion. Gen Musharraf may also brief the Maghreb leaders on his talks with US President George Bush.

President Musharraf’s first stop will be Tunisia where, according to ambassador Lamine Benzarti, the two heads of state are expected to discuss the Middle East and Iraq as well as the evolving rapprochement between Pakistan and India. He said that Tunisia had always favoured peaceful resolution of conflicts based on the principle of good “neighbourly and intelligent cooperation in the interest of the peoples of the countries concerned.”

He noted that Tunisian Foreign Minister Habib Ben Yahia had visited Islamabad in January 2001 and contacts between Pakistan and Tunisia in international gatherings at the highest level had been instrumental in strengthening the two countries’ relations. Ambassador Benzarti described the visit of Gen Musharraf as containing “more than one meaning and representing the traditional friendship between the two countries.”

He further said that the two countries were currently cooperating in many fields, specifically in bio technologies (cooperation between Tunisian organizations and NIAB, Faisalabad) and IT and said that an IT centre of excellence was being established in Tunis.

The ambassador regretted that the level of trade between the two countries was low and hoped that Gen Musharraf’s visit would impart “new dynamics to trade relations and open concrete opportunities of cooperation between the business communities of the two countries.”

Algerian envoy Aissa Seferdjeli recalled that Pakistan-Algeria relations had existed before the independence of Algeria as many leaders of his country travelled on Pakistani passports during the period of Algeria’s struggle for freedom.

He said that Algeria and Pakistan had many common concerns, and the fight on terrorism was one of them. He said that Algiers and Islamabad had signed a treaty for extradition last year that was a move towards countering terrorism.

Pakistan and Algeria, the envoy said, had signed a number of agreements on commercial and cultural themes and it was hoped that their implementation would be further expedited by the visit.

Ambassador Ahmed El Ahaidi of Morocco noted that relations between his country and Pakistan had been close and cordial, “characterized by shared perceptions on major global issues.” He was confident that the visit, besides boosting the two countries’ relations, would give a “strong signal to the business communities in both countries to meet and explore opportunities of cooperation.”