President Iajuddin Ahmed said Sunday that the SAARC countries would have to face collectively the challenges of socio-economic development of the region.
The region, Iajuddin mentioned, is endowed with immense human and natural resources and the potential to emerge as a strong regional economic bloc.
The President made the remark when SAARC Chairperson and Prime Minister of Bangladesh Khaleda Zia and other summit leaders called on him at Bangabhaban in the city in the afternoon, reports BSS.
Welcoming the heads of state or government, the President of expressed the hope that the ongoing SAARC process would ultimately lead to the South Asian Economic Union.
He said that he was happy that the SAARC leaders have decided to strengthen their Forum.
President Iajuddin congratulated the new chairperson of SAARC, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, and sought support and cooperation from the member countries in this connection.
The President said the SAARC countries should realise greater economic cooperation through trade liberalisation, investment promotion, poverty alleviation and social development for a poverty-free South Asia.
The third decade of SAARC, he said, should be devoted to the implementation of the commitments into concrete actions, projects and programmes.
The President's Press Secretary M Mokhlesur Rahman Chowdhury, briefing newsmen, said the meeting was held in a very cordial atmosphere.
The SAARC leaders discussed everything freely and frankly, he said adding the leaders thanked the President for showing them warm hospitality.
The President expressed his deep sorrow at the loss of lives and property in the devastating tsunami and earthquake that caused loss of huge number of lives and property in the affected countries of the region.
He said Bangladesh is grateful to all member states for conferring the first SAARC award on Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman.
He underscored the need for fighting together terrorism and poverty, which are the common problems of the region.
The President said the pragmatic ideas and proposals put forward by the SAARC leaders on the present and the future of the grouping are truly inspiring. He also expressed the hope that there would be reflection into action of the recommendations of the Dhaka Declaration.
He further expressed the hope that the SAARC leaders would respond to the expectations and aspirations of the peoples of the region.
The President appreciated the decision taken by SAARC leaders to implement SAFTA from January 2006 and said it would help the region towards achieving its main goal of poverty alleviation.
He thanked the SAARC leaders and wished them good health and happiness.
The summit leaders who called on President Iajuddin were Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bhutan Lyonpo Sangay Ngedup, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President of the Republic of Maldives Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, Nepalese King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
President of Sri Lanka Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga could not attend the occasion, as she left for home earlier in the day.