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Rapid aid promised by Nato

October 11, 2005

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BRUSSELS, Oct 10: Nato officials on Monday promised a rapid response to Pakistan’s request for urgent post-earthquake rescue aid while the European Commission signalled a readiness to provide additional humanitarian assistance to victims of the disaster.

Commission officials said that the European Union was also ready to give reconstruction aid to Pakistan once the immediate emergency humanitarian needs were met.

Nato governments are expected to take a formal decision on helping Pakistan on Tuesday after a meeting of the Nato military committee.

Pakistan has made a formal request for Nato assistance including food aid, tents and blankets as well help in transporting relief supplies to the northern regions most badly hit by the quake.

The alliance has a range of strategic airlift assets which could be mobilised for the operation. These include a converted cargo Boeing aircraft which could transport emergency assistance to Pakistan as well as helicopters to ferry relief supplies on to remote quake-affected regions in the north of the country.

Several thousand NATO soldiers are currently in Afghanistan on a peace stabilisation mission.

NATO helped ferry aid to the victims of Hurricane Katrina which hit the US Gulf Coast at the end of August. The aid operation included the deployment of Nato ships and a cargo airplane, part of the alliance’s reaction force.

The European Commission said it was rushing 3.6 million euros in emergency aid to help victims of the earthquake, adding that more humanitarian assistance would be announced in the coming days. Longer-term reconstruction aid to help rebuild the region was also being planned, the Commission said.

Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj said funds being released under the agency’s ”fast track” procedure for urgent humanitarian assistance would be used to supply victims with shelter, blankets, water, food and medical assistance.

Funds from ECHO, the European Union’s Humanitarian Aid department, will be used by non-governmental organizations already in Pakistan. Five ECHO experts were also in the country to assess evolving aid requirements, Mr Altafaj said.

A decision on further aid would depend on requests from Islamabad and coordination with UN relief agencies, he added.