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UN calls for US$543m to aid Pakistan

THE United Nations launched an appeal yesterday for US$543 million for more than 2 million people displaced by fighting in northwest Pakistan who are enduring "incredible suffering."

The military launched an offensive this month in the picturesque Swat Valley and neighboring districts to stop the spread of a Taliban insurgency that had raised fears for nuclear-armed Pakistan's future.

The UN has warned of a long-term humanitarian crisis and called for massive aid for nearly 1.7 million people displaced by the offensive and about 555,000 people forced from their homes by earlier fighting.

"The scale of this displacement is extraordinary in terms of size and speed and has caused incredible suffering," said Martin Mogwanja, the acting UN humanitarian coordinator, in launching the "flash appeal."

"We require a total US$543 million assistance until the end of December this year," Mogwanja said.

The UN appeal came a day after Pakistan's allies promised US$224 million in aid for the displaced, including US$110 million from the United States, after the government warned that the militants could exploit a failure to help.

Even if the Pakistani military defeats the Taliban quickly and people can go home soon, they will need help for months because their crops are rotting in the fields, aid officials say.

Pakistan could face greater turmoil in the months ahead.

US Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said on Thursday that a US military offensive in southern Afghanistan could push Taliban fighters into Pakistan.

The US is pouring thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan this year to try to reverse gains by a resurgent Taliban, particularly in its southern heartland.


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