Page last updated at 07:11 GMT, Tuesday, 14 October 2008 08:11 UK

Zardari seeks urgent Chinese cash

Pakistani short-range missile
Beijing is also Islamabad's biggest weapons supplier

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has arrived in China on his first state visit abroad.

He hailed China as "the future of the world" before departing Islamabad on a trip that is expected to see him seek much needed financial help.

He has stressed that building economic links with Beijing would be his top priority during his four-day visit.

China is one of Pakistan's oldest allies and the visit is the president's first since taking office in September.

"China is the future of the world. A strong China means a strong Pakistan," the Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Mr Zardari as saying in an interview on Monday ahead of his departure.

'Important agreements'

Mr Zardari's four-day visit to Beijing is at the invitation of Chinese President, Hu Jintao.

Pakistan and China are traditional allies with long-standing economic and commercial relations.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari
The president is likely to sign many agreements during his visit

Beijing is also Islamabad's biggest weapons supplier and is helping Pakistan to build a nuclear power plant - the second such project between them.

Pakistani officials say "important agreements will be signed" during President Zardari's visit to enhance co-operation in various sectors and seek China's help in the current economic crisis.

The visit comes at a time when Pakistan's relations with the US have been strained.

Pakistan is a frontline state in the US-led "war on terror" but in recent weeks, US forces in Afghanistan have carried out a series of controversial cross-border air raids into Pakistan to target al-Qaeda and Taleban militants.

The Pakistani authorities say that in some cases, civilians have been killed in the raids.

Correspondents say that relations between Washington and Islamabad were further strained when India and the US signed a nuclear agreement that would allow Delhi to buy US civilian nuclear technology.

Islamabad has said it would like a similar deal.

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