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Pakistan to probe embassy bombing

Yousef Raza Gilani (left) and Manmohan Singh shake hands on the sideline of the Saarc summit in Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2 August 2008
The pledge to investigate the bombing came after talks between the leaders

Pakistan has offered to investigate a bomb attack on India's embassy in Kabul last month that killed more than 50 people, India's foreign secretary says.

The announcement followed talks between the two countries' prime ministers at a South Asian summit in Sri Lanka.

Pakistan has come under pressure over claims, which it denies, that its spy agency was involved in the bombing.

Earlier, the Indian foreign secretary said relations had deteriorated to their worst level for four years.

The leaders are attending the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (Saarc) summit in Colombo along with leaders from Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal.

"(Pakistani) Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani said he would conduct an independent investigation," Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said.

Ceasefire violation?

Mr Gilani met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday.

Tensions between Pakistan and India - Saarc's biggest and most powerful members - have been exacerbated by a series of bomb attacks on Indian cities and continued hostilities in the disputed border area of Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, speaks as Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani looks on at the Colombo summit, Sri Lanka, 2 August 2008
Tensions between Pakistan and India have overshadowed the summit

India has accused Pakistan of violating a ceasefire accord in Kashmir, and troops from both sides traded gunfire earlier this week.

Addressing the summit, Mr Gilani condemned last month's Kabul embassy attack, in which two senior Indian diplomats died, and some 150 people were injured.

Officials from India and Afghanistan have publicly accused elements in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of involvement in the attack.

On Friday, newspaper reports in the US quoted Washington sources levelling the same accusations against the ISI.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry issued another denial, describing the claims as "total rubbish".

Terrorism issues

While food security and trying to improve the lot of the poor are on the agenda at the Colombo summit, correspondents say the key issue is whether the Saarc countries can work together to fight crime and terrorism.

Hamid Karzai at the Colombo summit, 2 August 2008
The use of militant radicalism as instrument of policy cannot succeed or serve any long term purpose
Hamid Karzai
President of Afghanistan

On Saturday, the eight leaders called for a joint effort to combat terrorism.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the meeting that terrorism and its sanctuaries were gaining a deeper grip in Pakistan, and called for "collective action to wipe out terrorism in the region".

"While the region has to deal with a myriad of serious problems such as chronic poverty, food and energy shortages, environmental degradation and the like, terrorism is by far the greatest and most menacing of all," he said.

Fierce fighting

Heavy security is in place for the Colombo conference, with almost 20,000 police and troops deployed to guard delegates as fighting in Sri Lanka's decades-long civil conflict continues.

Tamil Tiger rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire throughout the talks, but the government rejected the truce.

Sri Lankan police check people in Colombo in the run up to the Saarc summit, 30 July 2008
Security has been massively stepped up in Colombo for the summit

There were reports of new military battles in rebel-held areas in the island's north, with the Sri Lankan military saying at least 11 of its soldiers had been killed in fierce fighting.

South Asia is home to the one-fifth of the world's population, but hundreds of millions of South Asians live in poverty.

Since Saarc was founded in 1985, the group's summits have been long on rhetoric but short on follow-up action, analysts say.

The regional grouping has often been overshadowed by tension and hostility between India and Pakistan.




SEE ALSO
'Kashmir talks' held in Colombo
31 Jul 08 |  South Asia
Time to give Saarc a facelift
24 Sep 07 |  South Asia
Saarc leaders pledge better links
03 Apr 07 |  South Asia
South Asian leaders hold summit
02 Apr 07 |  South Asia
Saarc defers free trade dispute
02 Aug 06 |  South Asia

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