- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 11, 2018

A team of experts from the International Monetary Fund will travel to Islamabad in the coming weeks to discuss a possible financial assistance package for Pakistan — despite warnings from U.S. lawmakers and the Trump administration that the money would be used to pay off massive debts Pakistan has run up with China.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a statement Thursday she had met with top officials of the new government of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, including Finance Minister Asad Umar, on the sidelines of the global finance body’s annual meeting now underway in Bali, Indonesia.

The delegation “requested financial assistance from the IMF to help address Pakistan’s economic challenge,” Ms. Lagardesaid in a statement.

“An IMF team will visit Islamabad in the coming weeks to initiate discussions for a possible IMF-supported economic program,” the IMF chief said, adding, “We look forward to our continuing partnership.”

Pakistan has been a prime recipient of funds and infrastructure financing from China’s ambitious $1 trillion-plus “Belt and Road Initiative,” including the construction of highways, bridges and the strategically located port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on an Asian tour this summer said the Trump administration would “be watching” closely any IMF negotiation with Pakistan.

“There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars — and associated with that American dollars that are part of the IMF funding — … to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself,” Mr. Pompeo told the financial network CNBC in July.

Pakistan officials later claimed they had received assurances from Washington that the Trump administration would not veto an IMF financial package.

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