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Monday, October 25, 1999 Published at 16:36 GMT 17:36 UK

World: South Asia

Musharraf on Gulf tour

General Musharraf (left) with King Fahd (right)

Pakistan's new military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has held high-level talks in Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip since seizing power earlier this month.

Pakistan in crisis
General Musharraf met the Saudi monarch, King Fahd, as well as the country's ministers of defence and interior.

Saudi Arabia has traditionally been one of Pakistan's closest allies, extending large amounts of aid.

In remarks to journalists before the meeting, General Musharraf said he would explain developments in Pakistan to the Saudis and "ask for their support."

He said that the priority was to revive the Pakistani economy and preserve national unity.

General Musharraf is due to meet Crown Prince Abdullah on Tuesday.

Frank Gardner reports from Dubai: "Visit is highly significant"
The BBC's Gulf correspondent, Frank Gardner, says one issue which is likely to be high on the agenda is Afghanistan - in particular the recent decision by the UN to impose sanctions if the ruling Taleban do not hand over Saudi militant Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are the only three countries which officially recognise the Taleban as the rulers of Afghanistan.

Saudi coup welcome

Saudi Arabia was one of the first countries to welcome Pakistan's new military regime.

[ image: A tea boy admires a mural of Pakistan's new ruler]
A tea boy admires a mural of Pakistan's new ruler
A few days after General Musharraf assumed power, the Saudi defence minister said he had great confidence in the armed forces of Pakistan and in their capacity to protect and serve both Islam and all Pakistanis.

Officials in Islamabad say the fact that the general's first foreign visit is to Saudi Arabia and the UAE reaffirms the importance that Pakistan attaches to relations with the two countries.

'Democracy best guarantee'

In India, President K R Narayanan has expressed concern about the coup in Pakistan.

In a speech to parliament setting out government policy objectives, he said the military takeover by General Musharraf was "a matter of grave concern."

He added that "democracy alone can best guarantee peace, understanding and co-operation among countries and peoples."

He also said that Pakistan must stop "cross-border terrorism" in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Two months of fighting erupted in the disputed territory earlier this year after Pakistan-backed forces infiltrated across the Line of Control.

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