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Pakistan PM Sharif to meet Saudi crown prince on Riyadh visit

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Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will meet the Saudi crown prince during a two-day visit to Riyadh that starts on Saturday, the foreign ministry said.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Press Information Department (PID)/Handout via Reuters

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will meet the Saudi crown prince during a two-day visit to Riyadh that starts on Saturday, the foreign ministry said.

The visit will be Sharif's first foreign trip since forming a coalition government in February. The two are longtime allies, with the South Asian nation often turning to Riyadh for financial help during its balance of payment crises.

Since it averted a sovereign debt default last summer by securing a $3-billion IMF bailout, Pakistan has been in dire need of financial support from the multilateral lender and friendly countries.

Sharif will discuss issues of mutual interest during the meeting with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, the ministry said in a statement on Friday.

In addition to financial support, Pakistan has lately been trying to secure Saudi investment in industries ranging from agriculture to mines, minerals and aviation.

Islamabad says Saudi Arabia has shown interest in acquiring government stakes in Pakistan's Reko Diq gold and copper mine, which could be a major deal for the $350-billion economy.

Barrick Gold Corp owns a half share in the mine, which is considered one of the world's largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad

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