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|July 15, 1998||
Sharief's European tour called off due to cold response
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief's visit to a number of European countries has been called off after the host nations refused ''concrete assurances'' to rescue his country from its present economic quagmire, officials said on Tuesday.
Sharief's trips to major European countries, including Britain, France and Germany, were aimed at getting the international community to soften sanctions, imposed following the nuclear tests in May.
Officials said Pakistani missions in Europe informed Islamabad that while the European leaders would like Pakistan to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, they would offer no concrete assurance for an economic bailout in return.
The country is facing its worst-ever economic crisis with the rupee plunging to an all-time low against the dollar, remittances from overseas Pakistanis having become a trickle, and a precarious balance of payments position.
The latest crisis erupted after reports that the IMF was holding back the third instalment of its $ 1.6 billion assistance package.
The Pakistani prime minister was of the view that face-to-face meetings with G-8 leaders would prove fruitful. Officials said that while the meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair had already been finalised, it was yet to be clinched with other European leaders.
Two rounds of talks have already been held with the US. First Foreign Minister Shamshad Ahmed and then former Pakistani foreign minister and Sharief's special envoy Sahibzada Yakub Khan met US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in Washington.
Talbott is expected in Islamabad for two days of talks with Pakistani leaders on July 22 after ending a similar trip to India.
Yesterday, Sharief sent his younger brother Shahbaz and finance minister Sartaj Aziz to Saudi Arabia to enlist that country's support in Pakistan's favour.
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