ISLAMABAD, (Reuters) – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari will visit Saudi Arabia next week to seek economic assistance from its ally including help with oil payments, a government spokesman said on Friday.
Pakistan has been seeking assistance from its allies, including the United States and China, to help stabilise its ailing economy and avert a balance of payments crisis but it has secured little help.
Diplomats say Pakistan’s allies, including Saudi Arabia, want to see the government reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before coming forward with their own help.
The IMF said on Thursday talks with Pakistani officials in Dubai had been concluded and more discussions would be held in the next few days.
Pakistan has asked Saudi Arabia to defer payments for its crude oil imports, which are expected to be worth about $5.9 billion during the 2008/09 fiscal year (July/June). “The president would solicit Saudi support for the Friends of Democratic Pakistan initiative and the oil facility requested by Pakistan,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told a briefing.
The friends group was set up last month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York by countries that want to help Pakistan, whose support is seen as vital in defeating al Qaeda and bringing stability to neighbouring Afghanistan.
The group is due to meet in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 17 but officials have said the meeting should not be seen as a pledging forum.
Zardari will visit Saudi Arabia on Nov. 4-5, the spokesman said.