German foreign minister bound for Pakistan, Gulf

October 27th, 2008 - 11:43 pm ICT by IANS  

Berlin, Oct 27 (DPA) Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was flying to Pakistan Monday at the start of a four-day diplomatic tour that will also take him to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).The onslaught of terrorist attacks and the growing financial crisis in Pakistan are expected to dominate his talks with Pakistan’s new president, Asif Ali Zardari, in Islamabad Tuesday.

The German minister is likely to hold out an offer to increase European assistance to Pakistan, which analysts say could go bankrupt if talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a financial bailout plan fail.

Islamabad has appealed to its neighbours and western nations to come to its aid.

The Friends of Pakistan Group set up at the end of last month in New York at the time of a UN General Assembly meeting includes the European Union (EU) nations, the US and China.

The group aims to fund education and health projects that would prevent further destabilisation in multi-ethnic Pakistan, which has a long border with war-torn Afghanistan.

Afghan rebels fighting NATO-led troops in Afghanistan often withdraw to bases across the border in the remote tribal areas of western Pakistan.

This has led to an increase in violence against Pakistan, where around 1,200 people have been killed in more than 90 suicide bombings since July 2007.

In the Saudi capital Riyadh, Steinmeier is set to meet with King Abdullah and consult with the Saudi foreign and finance ministers as well as the central bank chief.

The global financial crisis and the steep fall in oil prices are expected to dominate the talks, as they are with UAE leaders in Abu Dhabi, the last leg of his tour.

Steinmeier, who was due to meet the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah, in Berlin before embarking on his trip, wants to see the two major oil producers linked more closely to the G8 club of rich industrial nations.

The German foreign minister will also be meeting with heads of the Abu Dhabi Investment Fund, a sovereign wealth fund which recently signalled an interest in taking a stake in German carmaker Daimler.

The talks in Abu Dhabi are also aimed at opening doors for German companies seeking contracts for huge plants and buildings. German business executives will be in the delegation.

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