: Foreign Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan dashed to Islamabad on Monday to hold consultations after Pakistan asked the United States to vacate the Shamsi air base within 15 days.

The visiting dignitary held one-on-one meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari but the Presidency was reluctant to shed any light on the nitty-gritty of this vital meeting as there were reports that the UAE had made a request for further extension of the deadline for withdrawal of the US troops.

The president declined to entertain Sheikh Abdullah’s request by saying that the government will follow the decision of the Defence Committee of the Cabinet that gave 15 days to the United States to vacate the Shamsi Airbase.

When contacted to seek confirmation of the UAE request or its rejection, Presidential Spokesman Farhatullah Babar said, “We have issued a press release of the meeting that was held at the delegation level but I cannot say anything about the one-on-one meeting held between the two.”

“How can I make any comment on one-on-one meeting between the two as there was no one in the meeting except both of them,” he said. This is almost surprising since the government itself admitted during the in camera session of the joint sitting of both the houses of Parliament that Shamsi Airbase was under UAE command, which had sublet it to the United States but the Presidency is keeping silence on this issue.

According to official announcement of the Presidency, in the delegation level meeting that was also attended by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister A Rehman Malik and other senior officials, a whole spectrum of Pak-UAE bilateral relations was discussed.

President Asif Ali Zardari highlighted the existing cordial and friendly relationship with UAE and said Pakistan greatly values its bonds of fraternity with the UAE and is keen to expand cooperation with it in various fields.

He emphasized further strengthening of the trade relations in order to translate the existing equation into economic terms. He expressed the hope that Joint Ministerial Commission between the two countries will provide structured mechanism for promotion of bilateral economic relations and would go a long way to enhance economic interactions between the two countries.

He said Pakistan deeply appreciates the continued interest of investors from UAE in Pakistan. The president said private sector and investors from UAE could take maximum advantage from the investment friendly policies of Pakistan in various sectors including petroleum, banking, telecommunications and infrastructure.

He said Pakistan was keen to sign Free Trade Agreement with GCC countries and would appreciate UAE’s support in this regard. “This would pave the way for increased commercial activity between Pakistan and the Gulf countries,” he added.

The president also noted with satisfaction the presence of a large number of Pakistani expatriates in UAE who were contributing positively towards socio-economic development of the country and were serving as a vehicle to promote greater understanding between the people of the two countries.

He also said that Pakistan could meet UAE demand in the field of Human Resource for its various development projects. During meeting the President thanked the UAE Government for their generosity and assistance to the people of Pakistan at every hour of distress and said that the generosity at the time of distress reflects the depth of our mutual feelings and the strength of our bonds.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed thanked the President for meeting and expressed the hope that the existing close cooperation between the two countries would continue to grow with each passing day for the mutual benefit.

He also assured continued support of the UAE government to the people of Pakistan in their fight against militancy and rehabilitation of natural calamity hit infrastructure. Meanwhile, according to an ISPR press release Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foriegn Minister of United Arab Emirates, called on Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani today. The visiting dignitary remained with the COAS for some time and discussed matters of mutual interest.