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UAE sets Nov 17 for urgent Pakistan aid meeting

ABU DHABI, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Potential donors to Pakistan will meet in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 17 to discuss urgent help in a financial crisis that has left the country needing billions of dollars in loans, the UAE foreign minister said on Thursday.

“It is an important conference,” Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said during a joint news briefing with his visiting German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

“It will be important for the Friends group to act quickly to shield Pakistan from the worsening impact of the financial crisis,” he said through a translator, referring to the “Friends of Pakistan” group launched in New York last month.

Pakistan is facing a balance-of-payments crisis and has just a few weeks to raise billions of dollars in foreign loans needed to meet debt payments and pay for imports.

Steinmeier, whose tour has already taken him to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, welcomed progress towards new talks on Pakistan, which German diplomatic sources said would take place at the level of senior officials.

Germany and the United Arab Emirates are both members of the “Friends of Pakistan” group. Saudi Arabia confirmed on Tuesday that it would also attend the meeting in Abu Dhabi next month.

Steinmeier earlier this week urged Pakistan to seek the help of the International Monetary Fund to tackle its financial woes and said Germany would be ready to help negotiate a deal.

Islamabad’s seven-month-old government, running Pakistan after more than eight years under former army chief Pervez Musharraf, has been reluctant to go the IMF but has been looking for help from friendly governments.

Donors caught up with their own problems brought on by the global financial crisis apparently prefer to wait for IMF involvement, which would bring discipline by attaching conditions and targets, analysts say.

Pakistan has been in talks with the IMF in Dubai since last week but has yet to decide if it will seek extra IMF aid.

“I assume that by the date of the (Friends of Pakistan) conference the negotiations with the IMF will have been concluded,” Steinmeier said. “This assumes that there is agreement on the conditions. We are both confident that this will happen in the next few days.”

Steinmeier has insisted that the global market crisis can only be tackled with international cooperation, saying the circle of the Group of Eight had to be expanded on this issue. He has welcomed Gulf states’ willingness to get involved.

Asked about British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s call on Gulf oil producers to boost funds to the IMF, Steinmeier said: “We have seen that there is a lot of demand on the IMF. In this context the IMF is reaching the limit of its capacity and we must find possibilities to keep it liquid together. This is the duty of everybody including the Gulf states.”

Sheikh Abdullah said Gulf Arab states were willing to make all the necessary efforts to protect the international economy from the effects of the financial crisis. (Writing by Lin Noueihed)