PM sounds out Saudis on weapons sale
JEDDAH: Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani held extensive talks with King Abdullah on Monday.
They discussed ways of enhancing trade and economic ties between the two countries. The two sides agreed to continue close coordination on all major issues and to stand by each other in times of need.
The meeting was marked by complete unanimity of views on most regional and global issues, sources said.
This visit was basically to perform Umrah, the Pakistani side conceded, yet the Saudi leadership opted to invite the prime minister on an official working visit of the Kingdom.
This was a special gesture from Saudi Arabia as they rarely invite foreign leaders on official visits during Ramadan, Pakistani diplomats said.
Prime Minister Gilani profusely thanked the king for the kind gesture. Sources said that the prime minister laid out before the king the difficulties and the tough economic conditions the country was facing because the on going war on terror.
The Pakistani side reportedly reiterated its interest in selling heavy defence equipment, including tanks and armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has been evaluating the possibility for some time.
It is believed that Prime Minister Gilani also made a request to Saudi officials to extend the deferred oil payment facility to Pakistan again, so as to help it overcome the current budgetary problems. Saudi Arabia indicated it would consider the suggestion.
The current situation in Afghanistan, especially the emerging situation in the wake of the anticipated US pullout and its fallout on the entire region, was also discussed between the two leaders.
Saudi Arabia underlined the significant role that Islamabad had to play in bringing about a peaceful, negotiated, end to the Afghan imbroglio.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia agreed to the need of peace and stability in the Middle East.
Early on Monday morning, Prime Minister Gilani and his entourage performed Umrah, praying for the solidarity, stability and progress of Pakistan and the Ummah.
Before meeting King Abdullah, the prime minister also addressed the Pakistan Investment Forum at an Iftar dinner hosted by them.
He assured the business community that Pakistan was in safe hands and that Pakistan’s economy was on way to recovery.
He said that the current democratic era had provided political stability to the country – so very essential for the growth and economic prosperity of any country.
The prime minister said that Pakistan was facing numerous challenges.
He said these included the country’s war against militancy and terrorism, the impact of the global recession, high international prices of petroleum products, and the massive damages of up to $10 billion caused by the floods last year.
However, he said the national economy was resilient and pursuing a vigorous reform agenda.