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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 78

SAARC leaders bid farewell to President Kumaratunga

[b]SAARC leaders bid farewell to President Kumaratunga [/b]

[b] Dhaka, 14 November, ([/b]The twice postponed summit of the seven South Asian leaders finally got underway at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre in Dhaka on 12 th Saturday morning. The security measures were perhaps the 'most stringent experienced thus far' said a senior diplomat who had attended most of the past regional Summits.

The thirteenth SAARC Summit was different from the previous 12 apex meetings of the region for several reasons. SAARC has completed 20 years of existence, but the leaders seem to agree that the forum has lagged behind with not much achieved for the 1.5 billion people it represents. It was also a homecoming of sorts for SAARC because the late President Ziaur Rahman had mooted the idea of regional cooperation in 1980 and first meeting was held in this same city.

This Summit also was the swan song for President Chandrika Kumaratunga who has been a key figure in the region for more than half the period of SAARC's existence. The other six leaders used the occasion to bid fond farewells to the charismatic Sri Lankan leader at the Summit, the State Banquet and during the several bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the conference.

The senior most leader Maldivian President Abdul Gayoom in his address said 'this Summit is the last one where we can call upon the wisdom of President Chandrika Kumaratunga' and wished her on behalf of the people and the Government of Maldives 'continued good health and success in all her future endeavours'.

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