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Islamabad: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday spoke to Vladimir Putin and exchanged views on bilateral cooperation as well as regional and international issues and also appreciated the Russian President's "emphatic statement" that freedom of speech could not be a pretext to abuse Prophet.

During a telephonic conversation with President Putin, Prime Minister Khan said he has regularly highlighted appalling rise in Islamophobia and associated hatred in his addresses to UN General Assembly, pointing towards its serious ramifications, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

He "appreciated President's Putin statement that insulting Holy Prophet Muhammad does not count as an expression of artistic freedom", it said.

Khan in a tweet said he spoke to Putin "primarily to express my appreciation for his emphatic statement that freedom of speech could not be a pretext to abuse our Prophet". "He (Putin) is first Western leader to show empathy & sensitivity to Muslim sentiment for their beloved Prophet," said Khan, who frequently faces  wrath of hardline Islamists in country over offensive caricatures of Prophet in some western publications.

Khan said they also discussed ways to move forward on trade and other mutually beneficial cooperation between Pakistan and Russia and invited each other to visit their respective countries.

During conversation, the two leaders exchanged views on bilateral cooperation as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest, the Foreign Office statement said.

Khan underscored that Pakistan's bilateral relationship with Russia was on an upward trajectory, with an increased focus on trade and economic ties and energy cooperation, it said.

He reiterated government's resolve for early realisation of Pakistan Stream Gas Pipeline Project, which is being developed with Russia's aid. Khan and Putin agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in different areas, hike high-level exchanges, and remain in close contact on matters relating to Afghanistan, statement said. 





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