efe-epaIslamabad

The prime minister of Pakistan left for the United States on Saturday where he is set to meet the US president in a bid to "reset" tense bilateral relations.

Imran Khan's first visit to the US since taking office last year comes at a time when Pakistan finds itself in a difficult economic situation due to a trade deficit, lack of foreign exchange and a need for foreign investment.

Khan departed for Washington on a commercial flight at around 3 pm, Pakistani state television PTV reported.

The Asian country has just received a $6 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund, despite concerns expressed by the US.

"Prime minister's (Khan) visit offers the leadership of both countries new opportunities towards resetting the bilateral relationship," said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi this week.

Khan's meeting with Donald Trump at the White House scheduled for Monday comes after the latter directed harsh rhetoric towards Pakistan.

Trump last year accused Islamabad of helping to hide Osama Bin Laden in its territory and said even though it received $1.3 billion a year from Washington it had failed to do anything in return for the US.

Khan at the time said the US was using his country as a "scapegoat" for its failures in Afghanistan.

In January 2018, Washington announced it was suspending most of its security aid for Pakistan until Islamabad took decisive action against terror groups like the Taliban, which were destabilizing the region and threatening US personnel.

Khan, a former cricketer who led his national team to its 1992 World Cup victory, arrives in Washington after the arrest on Tuesday of Hafiz Saeed, accused by the US and India of being behind the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai that left 166 dead.

Trump applauded the arrest and said it was a result of the pressure imposed by his administration on Pakistan to harden its stance against radical Islamists.

"After a ten year search, the so-called "mastermind" of the Mumbai Terror attacks has been arrested in Pakistan. Great pressure has been exerted over the last two years to find him!" tweeted Trump.

But Saeed, considered a terrorist by the United Nations as well, far from being in hiding was moving around freely in Pakistan, where he has participated in public events and given speeches.

He has also been in and out of prison several times and under house arrest in recent years.

Khan is likely to defend the role his country is playing in negotiating the US-Taliban peace agreement in Afghanistan after 18 years of war, negotiations that are in their seventh round.

Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa accompanies the prime minister on the trip. EFE-EPA

aa-jlr/sp/sh