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India-Pak response to quake positive: Annan

By K J M Varma
November 19, 2005 00:17 IST
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UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on Friday said that India and Pakistan had reacted positively to the aftermath of the earthquake that destroyed parts of Kashmir on both sides and opening of points along the Line of Control for Kashmiris to cross would be a confidence-building measure to improve the climate for ongoing dialogue to resolve contentious issues.

Annan also rejected suggestions that international donors' assistance to Pakistan's quake-hit areas be made conditional to Islamabad's cracking down on militant groups from its territory.

"The two leaders of the governments reacted in a positive and responsible manner since the crisis. Now that the LOC points are opened, I think whatever we can do to facilitate relief and passage across the line to be able to assist those in need should be done.

"I am encouraged by what the leaders have done so far", Annan, who is here to attend international donors conference on Saturday to raise funds for quake victims, told a media conference in Islamabad.

"The talks, which have been initiated (between India and Pakistan), must continue and the two leaders should strive harder to come to an agreement and understanding. We in the UN support that kind of a peace effort.     

"Some of the things that happened along the LOC hopefully would be seen as a confidence building measures that can be built on and improve the climate for discussions that are going on", he said.      

"Working on humanitarian measures will further improve on confidence building that could lead to a thaw and eventually accelerate the discussions", Annan said.

Asked whether donor countries should make their assistance conditional to Pakistan's cracking down on militant groups, Annan said, "I do not think that assistance on humanitarian grounds should be conditional on whether Pakistan is helping to fight terrorist or not.

"We should deal with humanitarian situation as it is and help the people in need. When it comes to saving lives, no conditions should be imposed," he added.

He said that after tomorrow's conference he would appoint a special envoy for Pakistan's quake relief much on the same line he appointed former US President Bill Clinton to raise funds for Tsunami survivors to ensure that money was collected from the donors who pledged funds.

Annan also said Pakistan, which hopes to raise $5.2 billion funding needed for reconstruction, should not be disappointed if the funding failed to materialise to its satisfaction.

"If we do not get to the target on Saturday, we need to keep trying. We have to keep pressing donor governments and  individuals. I do not think that we can sit back relax. I hope the results will be respectable tomorrow. If we do not achieve our target, we have to keep pressing", he said.     

The UN Secretary General also said there was nothing wrong in Pakistan accepting helicopters and troops from NATO and US. "Main thing is to get the help needed to save lives", he said.

Annan expressed the hope that more donations will be announced in the conference to meet the target of reconstruction costs and the results will be respectable.     

He said the international community will help Pakistan to intensify its relief activities to save further losses and added that he was impressed by relief operations being carried out by Pakistan government.

The Secretary General said the United Nations will appoint a special envoy to follow up the decisions taken at the International Donors Conference for sustaining long term relief efforts.

Annan said Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and he himself were writing to world leaders to extend generous assistance for the reconstruction phase.

Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri lauded the role of the UN system for extending urgent assistance to Pakistan and assisting in recovery, relief and rehabilitation of quake-affected people.

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K J M Varma
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