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US VP Biden calls PM Gilani on floods crisis

bidenWASHINGTON: US Vice President Joe Biden reaffirmed US support for Pakistan during its flood crisis in a telephone call Friday with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the White House said.

“Vice President Biden underlined that the United States is standing by Pakistan during this challenging time,” Biden’s office said in a statement.

The White House said that the US government had provided 260 million dollars so far in emergency humanitarian aid, including halal meals, pre-fabricated steel bridges and other infrastructure.

The statement said that the United States was now using 25 helicopters, two C-17s, and five C-130 transport aircraft to distribute supplies, and had transported 13,000 people to safety.

“While we continue our immediate flood relief, Vice President Biden highlighted that we are also pursuing a full-fledged diplomatic effort to encourage additional international resources to help Pakistan rebuild,” the statement said.

“The two leaders discussed ongoing coordination as Pakistan transitions from relief to recovery efforts.”

Some 21 million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan, which began more than six weeks ago and have dragged on through the fasting month of Ramadan, with more than eight million reliant on aid handouts for survival.

Separately, the White House also announced that President Barack Obama was naming Cameron Munter, a veteran diplomat in conflict-torn countries, as the next ambassador to Pakistan.

Munter was the ambassador to Serbia in 2008 when ultra-nationalist protesters stormed the embassy, leading him to issue a strong warning that “it had better not happen again.” Munter is seen as close to Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan whose position was cast into doubt in an explosive Rolling Stone article that brought down top general Stanley McChrystal. – AFP

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