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Step up aid; Ban, Asif tell world

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ISLAMABAD – UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed to the international community to step up aid for flood-ravaged Pakistan, warning the “heart-wrenching” disaster is far from over.

Ban held talks with Pakistani leaders and flew with President Asif Ali Zardari over some of the worst affected areas of the central province of Punjab on Sunday.

“I’m here to urge the world to step up their generous support for Pakistan,” he told a news conference with Zardari.

The UN secretary general said he would never forget the “heart-wrenching” scenes of destruction he had witnessed.

“Many have lost families and friends. Many more are afraid their children and loved ones will not survive in these conditions,” Ban said.

Aid agencies were monitoring the risk of “a second wave” of deaths in the shape of water-borne diseases.

Sami Abdul Malik, spokesman for the UN children’s fund UNICEF, said six million children were affected by the disaster.

“Children are always vulnerable. They cannot control their thirst, they will drink any type of water and may get watery diarrhoea, cholera, malaria and other diseases,” he told AFP.

The United Nations has confirmed at least one cholera case and said 36,000 people were reportedly suffering from acute diarrhoea.

Ban said a possible 20 million people were directly or indirectly affected by the floods and that one fifth of the country had been ravaged.

“This disaster is far from over. The rains are still falling and could continue for weeks.

“The United Nations and international community and international humanitarian community are moving as fast as we can to help the government deliver desperately needed humanitarian assistance,” Ban said.

The UN has appealed for 460 million dollars to deal with the immediate aftermath of the floods, but has warned that billions will be needed in the long term as villages, businesses, crops and infrastructure have been wiped out.

Pakistan’s weak civilian government has appealed to the global community to help it deal with the challenges of a crisis compared by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to the sub-continent’s 1947 partition.

Charities have complained that relief for those affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history is lagging far behind what is needed, with six to eight million people dependent on humanitarian aid to survive.

Ban announced a further 10 million dollars from the UN central emergency response fund, making a total of 27 million dollars since the beginning of the crisis. “As the waters recede, we must move quickly,” he said.

Zardari said it would take at least two years to restore the livelihoods of people affected by the floods.

“This is a long-term affair. It is a two years’ campaign,” Zardari said. “We have to consider and keep it in mind that for two years we have to give them crops, fertilisers, seeds, and look after them and feed them to take them to where they were.”

Fresh floods hit the southwestern province of Baluchistan at the weekend, devastating hundreds of villages and causing tens of thousands to flee, said Sher Khan Bazai, the commissioner in the town of Jaffarabad.

“The situation is grim. I saw people sheltering on the roofs of trucks and buses as bridges and roads have been washed away,” Bazai said, adding that authorities had only one helicopter and four boats for rescue missions.

The UN estimates that 1,600 have died in the floods, while the government in Islamabad has confirmed 1,384 deaths.

The nuclear-armed country of 167 million people is on the front line of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda. Western governments have traced overseas terror plots back to Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps in the lawless tribal mountains.

EU ready ‘to take unilateral sanctions against Iran’

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The West suspects Iran’s nuclear drive may be aimed at acquiring atomic weapons

Finland – The European Union is ready to unilaterally impose new sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner confirmed Sunday.

Asked by journalists whether there was a consensus within the EU for unilateral sanctions against Iran, Kouchner replied “broadly yes, but we have to talk about what kind of sanctions.

“And first we should devote our strength and time to getting a resolution in the UN Security Council and we’re working on that,” he said.

“The general consensus is also to not target the people but to target the economy, banking, insurance and travel permits for some particular people,” he added.

Kouchner was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Finland. On Saturday his Finnish counterpart Alexander Stubb indicated that there was a sufficient consensus within the EU to impose unilateral sanctions on Iran if need be.

The statements were the first clear declarations by European officials that the bloc is ready to order sanctions outside of a UN framework, a measure which only recently several member countries had opposed.

Western governments, particularly the United States and France, are seeking further sanctions in the hope of stopping Tehran’s nuclear drive, which they suspect may be aimed at acquiring atomic weapons.

The Islamic republic says its nuclear programme is for purely peaceful purposes.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said any EU move was unlikely for the coming months as the UN Security Council is expected to take up a new sanctions resolution.

“The United States are expected to present a draft resolution at the end of March,” said Frattini, with consideration of the measure to take several months, which he called “a reasonable delay.”

Of the five permanent Security Council members, currently only China opposes new measures against Iran.

The 15-strong UN Security Council has five permanent veto-wielding members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

Adoption of a resolution requires at least nine votes from the council and no veto from the permanent members.

A European diplomat who asked not to be named said that EU members were not completely unanimous, with Sweden in particular still reluctant to support sanctions outside of the UN framework.

With the improved chances of obtaining an UN Security Council resolution the EU may avoid facing the question of independently imposing sanctions, she added.

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 15, 2010 at 6:23 am