BEIJING, March 12: Chinese President Hu Jintao has sent a formal letter to President Pervez Musharraf inviting him to attend the sixth summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

The summit is scheduled to take place in Shanghai in the middle of June. “We will be glad to receive President Musharraf at the summit,” said a senior Chinese official here on Sunday. Pakistan will be participating in the summit as an observer.

Referring to Pakistan’s full membership in the organization, the official said the matter was discussed during the recent meeting between the two leaders in Beijing last month. The SCO’s Secretary-General Zhang Deguang also held “a very useful meeting” with President Musharraf, he said. Both sides exchanged views on ways to develop cooperation between Pakistan and the SCO.

In an interview, the SCO’s secretary-general said that all member states of the organization attached great importance to Pakistan and wished to develop closer interaction in areas of common interest. There was a large space and good prospects for cooperation between the two sides, he added.

Mr Zhang said that he looked forward to having a follow-up meeting with President Musharraf at the Shanghai summit. When asked to comment on Pakistan’s desire to become a full member of the SCO, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Liu Jianchao said China would convey Pakistan’s desire to all SCO member states.

The SCO pursues an open principle in absorbing new members, Mr Liu said, adding that the member states are now discussing to determine the status of the four observer countries so as to better promote the cooperation within the organization framework.

“We need consensus in accepting new members,” he said.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Salman Bashir said Islamabad wished to become an active member of the SCO to tackle common problems and promoting its socio-economic goals. Pakistan, he assured would provide strong support to the SCO to become an effective instrument for promoting peace, stability and progress in the region.

Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui said the Shanghai summit would give a strong impetus to the all-round development of the SCO and further expand the organization’s influence among the international community.

China currently holds the presidency and has begun preparations for the summit, said Mr Li.

SCO is an inter-governmental organization founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001 by six countries — China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajik-istan and Uzbekistan. It has granted observer status to four states, including Pakistan, Iran, India and Mongolia— APP

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