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South Asian Nations to Look at Legal Framework to Combat Terrorism


Leaders from eight South Asian nations have agreed to work towards a pact that would allow for those accused of terrorism and other cross-border crimes to be extradited to other member states. Indian officials say that is one of the significant outcomes from two days of top-level meetings in New Delhi. VOA's Steve Herman reports from the Indian capital where the summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation has concluded.

India and other members of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had appealed to the leaders gathered here to come up with a concrete plan to combat terrorism.

At the conclusion of the two-day summit, there appeared to be little of significance to show from their discussions of the topic.

But India's external affairs minister, Pranab Mukherjee, defended the summit's declaration, telling reporters it is very strong on terrorism, because SAARC will now try to draft a convention on mutual assistance in criminal matters.

"Once it is institutionalized within the legal framework it will be possible to take appropriate measures against the terrorist activities," he said.

That would allow for suspects accused of terrorism and other trans-national crimes to easily be extradited, something that is rare within South Asia at present.

On other matters, the SAARC summit agreed to establish a South Asian University, to be based in India, but with campuses in other countries as well. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says the school will be a world-class institution.

Leaders of the eight countries also agreed to set up a regional food bank to counter emergency shortages.

The association also announced it will work with international agencies to make, what was termed, "tangible progress" within six months to improve the environment and give the region's nearly one-and-one-half-billion people better access to food, energy and clean water.

SAARC is composed of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Next year's summit is to be held in Male, the capital of the Maldives.