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ISLAMABAD, April 15: President General Pervez Musharraf and Saudi Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on Saturday held talks on regional and international issues, including the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.

Prince Sultan exchanged views with President Musharraf on counter-terrorism and conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

Gen Musharraf noted that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were “bound in indelible bonds of friendship rooted in religion, culture and history.”

He said these relations would continue to grow and expressed the hope that the business communities of the two countries would be able to explore new avenues or joint ventures to cement the excellent broad-based ties.

Identifying energy, refinery, infrastructure and food processing as some of the most potential areas for Saudi investment in Pakistan, the president said Pakistan would facilitate entrepreneurs from the kingdom and offer a level-playing field to them.

Later, speaking at a banquet hosted by the president in honour of the crown prince, the two leaders expressed resolve to invigorate bilateral ties through increased trade and economic cooperation.

Gen Musharraf said Pakistan wanted to expand its economic and political ties with Saudi Arabia by taking the trade and commerce cooperation to new heights.

He looked forward to forging greater cooperation in defence production and training between the armed forces of the two countries.

The president expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for extending prompt and generous financial support in the aftermath of the earthquake.

Pakistan, Gen Musharraf said, stood with Saudi Arabia and supported King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz’s efforts towards bringing peace and harmony to the region.

He also discussed with Prince Sultan Pakistan-India relations and efforts for early resolution of the Kashmir dispute. The crown prince appreciated Pakistan’s efforts in this respect and hoped for a successful outcome of these initiatives.

The two also discussed reform of the Organisation of Islamic Conference with a view to enabling it to lead the Muslim world towards durable socio-economic progress. The president underlined the importance of enhancing intra-OIC trade and cooperation in science and technology.

The crown prince, in his speech, said his country wished continued development of Pakistan and added that King Abdullah greatly appreciated the Pakistani leadership and people for their recent economic strides.

He said the Saudi leadership was determined to promote ties with Pakistan in all spheres, including cultural, economic, commercial and political.

“The deep-rooted Saudi-Pakistan relations and brotherhood have been excellent since the independence of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia has always supported Pakistan.

“Saudi Arabia has opened its doors for the brotherly people of Pakistan and we embrace them with love and sincerity,” he emphasised.

He said Saudi Arabia looked forward to imparting further depth to its relations with Pakistan.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, services chiefs and foreign diplomats attended the banquet.

ARRIVAL: Earlier, President Musharraf and Prime Minister Aziz received the crown prince at the Islamabad airport.

Prince Sultan was accorded a warm welcome. A red carpet was rolled out at the Islamabad airport. The special aircraft of the crown prince was escorted into the Pakistani airspace by two F-16 fighters and a 21-gun salute boomed as he alighted.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said the discussions between the crown prince and the Pakistani leaders would focus on defence cooperation and other areas of close bilateral relations.

Official sources said Saudi Arabia was interested in buying Pakistan-made Al Khalid tanks and this would be part of the crown prince’s discussions.—Agencies

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