'New world order'

Raul Castro, the Cuban president, addressed the opening session of the summit on Wednesday with a call to create a financial system that is fairer to developing nations in light of the global recession.

"As usual, the wealthy countries were the source of the current crisis, which was affected by the ... illogic of the international economic order that depends on blind market principles and consumption, and wealth of the few," he said.

"So we call for the creation of a new international financial and economic structure that is based on actual participation of all states, and especially developing states."

Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's president, also urged a new "international political, economic and trade order" to be established.

"A more just and balanced order that prevents discrimination and double standards, achieves the interests of all, takes into account concerns of developing countries and
establishes democratic dealings between rich and poor states," he said.

While the summit is expected to largely focus on the economic crisis, Sheila Sisulu, from the World Food Programme, told Al Jazeera she hopes the it also addresses the plight of those most vulnerable to food insecurity.

She said while the Group of Eight summit earlier this month pledged help poor nations become self sufficient, there would "always be people ... whose food security will not be addressed by agricultural development".

"The most vulnerable ... should always be catered for. At the moment, with high food prices, we at the World Food Programme are only 25 per cent funded this year".

India-Pakistan contacts

Pakistani and Indian foreign ministry officials held a meeting in the Red Sea resort town on Tuesday in advance of their prime ministers' meeting, according to an Indian official.

In what will be the second high-level contact between the two nations in eight months, Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, and Yusuf Raza Gilani, his Pakistani counterpart, are expected to hold talks on Thursday.

New Delhi and Islamabad's already fraught relations worsened after last November's bombings in the Indian commercial capital, which killed nearly 170 people.

India blamed the attack on the banned Pakistani group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Singh voiced hope that Pakistan will promise action against those behind the attacks when he meets Gilani.

The Mumbai attacks destroyed a fragile peace process launched in 2004 to resolve all outstanding issues of conflict between the neighbours, including a territorial dispute over the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

Gilani said he hoped the meeting would get peace talks back on track.

Rehman Malik, the Pakistani interior minister, said over the weekend that Pakistan had completed its investigation into five suspects and they were expected to be put on trial this week.

Pakistan handed over to India on Saturday a fresh dossier on its probe into the attack.

Iran-Egypt relations

In another set of diplomatically significant meetings, the Egyptian and Iranian foreign ministers have held three rounds of talks this week, the two countries' diplomats said on Tuesday.

Formal diplomatic ties were severed in 1979 when Egypt signed a peace deal with Israel.

Mottaki met his Egyptian counterpart in 'positive and cordial atmosphere' [AFP]

Although Iran has been looking to improve relations, Egypt accuses it of meddling in Arab conflicts and refuses to renew formal ties until Iran ends its support for Shia fighters in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian group Hamas.

An Iranian diplomat said the talks between Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, and Manouchehr Mottaki, his Iranian counterpart, took place in "a positive and cordial atmosphere".

Hossam Zaki, the Egyptian foreign minister's spokesman, said the two countries have had their differences but expressed hope that they could work together for "stability in the region."

As the meetings took place, Egypt confirmed that two Israeli warships had crossed through the Egyptian-controlled Suez Canal, a strategic waterway linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea.

Use of the canal could significantly shorten the time it would take Israeli ships to reach waters off Iran.