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Pakistani PM starts tour in Nepal

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz is visiting Nepal Monday on the first leg of a tour to strengthen trade and cooperation between South Asian nations.

"For Pakistan, our top priorities in (the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation) are forward movement on the South Asian Free Trade Area, poverty alleviation and energy cooperation," Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told the Pakistani Daily Times Monday.

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In the first leg of his tour, the prime minister as chairman of SAARC will visit Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh from Nov. 1 to 4. He will visit India, Maldives and Sri Lanka after the Eid festival marking the end of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims.

Pakistan has tried to secure observer status for SAARC at the United Nations, Khan said. In a separate statement issued Sunday, Khan said Pakistan had encouraged closer collaboration between SAARC and other international and regional organizations.

The statement said that the prime minister would use the tour to reaffirm Pakistan's commitment to regional cooperation. Aziz will call on the king of Nepal, the king of Bhutan and the president of Bangladesh.

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