The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Saudi prince in Pak for talks on Iraq troops

Islamabad, Oct. 18: Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz arrived here today for talks with Pakistani leadership on the volatile West Asia region and the explosive situation in US-controlled Iraq.

Abdullah’s itinerary includes discussions with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali as well as a visit to an exhibition of defence equipment in Islamabad tomorrow.

Latest developments in Iraq and the US-backed UN resolution on it are likely to dominate the talks. Foreign ministry officials said one of the hottest issues would probably be the deployment of a multi-national force in Baghdad, a proposition that has yet to receive support by major Muslim countries like Pakistan.

The 57-member Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) also welcomed the resolution at the conclusion of its summit meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia yesterday. However, President Musharraf reiterated in Putrajaya that Pakistan would not send troops to Iraq unless certain pre-conditions are met.

Saudi envoy in Islamabad Ali Awadh Asseri also seemed non-committal on the issue when he said in an interview that Riyadh looked forward to seeing a sovereign Iraq.

This is the first high-level visit to Pakistan by a Saudi crown prince in five years, which observers believe is significant with regard to the increasing US-based criticism of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s role in the war against terrorism. “Certain individuals, countries and western media are responsible for Saudi Arabia’s negative image in the West by associating religion with terrorism," Asseri said in reference to US secretary general Kofi Annan’s warning to the OIC summit about rising hostility between Islam and the West.

He maintained that it is for the entire Muslim world to educate the West about the true face of Islam and that terrorists have no religion. An English newspaper quoted Saudi ambassador as saying that Prince Abdullah would also discuss ways to improve balance of trade between the two countries.

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