ISLAMABAD, Dec 5: The militants who attacked Mumbai must not be allowed to derail the peace process between India and Pakistan, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said here on Friday.

He reiterated an offer to work with India to expose the “hidden hands” behind the “ghastly acts of terrorism”.

“While the terrorists may try to derail the peace process between Pakistan and India, we should not allow them to succeed in their nefarious designs,” Mr Gilani said in a speech to European ambassadors. –Reuter

Baqir Sajjad Syed adds from Islamabad: The European Union is working on a proposal to forge stronger partnership with Pakistan and grant greater market access to its products, diplomats told Dawn here on Friday.

A recommendation to this effect is likely to be made by a meeting of EU foreign ministers to be held in Brussels on Monday. The proposal envisages closer cooperation with Pakistan in the fight against terror, increased aid for democratic reforms in the country and strengthening of political dialogue.

“The EU attaches great importance to its relations with Pakistan, which is a strategic partner for all of us,” said French Ambassador in Islamabad Daniel Jouanneau at a ceremony for presenting the European Union’s ‘Blue Book’ to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

The ambassador welcomed Pakistan’s willingness to build a strategic partnership.

He said the EU was actively considering a proposal to provide market access to Pakistani products.

Pakistan seeks access for its products in the EU market through a Free Trade Agreement and the GSP + arrangement and says that it has a direct bearing on its fight against poverty and extremism.

Pakistan did not qualify for the GSP+ for the 2006-2008 period and as a result its exports suffered massively. Pakistan is the only country in South Asia with no preferential trade arrangement with the EU.

A meeting of the Pak-EU Joint Economic Commission to be held in Brussels from Dec 17 will consider Pakistan’s request for the GSP+ arrangement on the basis of the findings of a study undertaken by the University of Sussex.

Prime Minister Gilani exchanged views with EU diplomats on the regional security situation in the wake of the Mumbai attacks and called for closer relations between Pakistan and the EU.

FRENCH DEVELOPMENT AGENCY: The French Development Agency (AFD), a state-owned financial entity, will set up its office in Pakistan.

An agreement to this effect has been signed in Islamabad.

Initially, the group will focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and invest about 300 million to 400 million euros over three to four years.

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