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[KARACHI] Countries in the Middle East and Central Asia have agreed to give science and technology (S&T) a push in their regions by launching a science foundation.

The Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) has put the final touches to an agreement to establish the ECO Science Foundation, to foster science and development in its ten member states.

"The ECO Science Foundation aims for joint research projects, fellowships, scholar exchange programs and to promote capacity building in the region," said Fatih Unlu, ECO's deputy secretary general.

He said that Iran, Pakistan and Turkey will contribute equally to an S&T fund and that the other member states — Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan — will contribute voluntarily.

Pakistan will host the science foundation initially, but its location will rotate between the foundation's members.

The agreement was finalised during a visit of ECO's secretary general, Mohammed Yahya Maroofi, to the Pakistan Science Foundation earlier this month (2 March).

The first meeting of the board of trustees, in April, will discuss the initial agenda, a working formula, the drafting of rules, 2011–12 programmes and appointments to make the foundation functional.

Manzoor Hussain Soomro, chairman of the Pakistan Science Foundation, said that the foundation would have a different role from COMSTECH, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference's S&T committee, which has 57 Islamic countries as its members.

"ECO has its own context of work, but ECO will definitely interact with COMSTECH," he said.

ECO has already signed a memorandum of understanding with UNESCO to promote S&T awareness in the region.

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