After quake: World Bank chief stresses team work in helping Pakistan

Donor nations must cooperate in helping quake-devastated Pakistan and his team is prepared to deliver US$20 million in aid, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said Sunday.

Pakistan is appealing for urgent help after a 7.6-magnitude quake struck Saturday, killing more than 30,000 people in Pakistan and nearby areas in what the nation is calling it its worst-ever disaster.

Wolfowitz said the spate of recent disasters, including the Asian tsunami, as well as earthquakes in Turkey and Iran, has caused international donors to get better at coming up with aid. Wolfowitz said the World Bank team is ready to give US$20 million in aid to Pakistan.

The former U.S. deputy defense secretary, known as the prime architect of the Iraq war, is on a two-week trip to Japan, China, Russia, Sweden and Finland _ his first visit to those countries since taking office as head of the 184-nation bank whose stated mission is to fight poverty and promote economic development.

During the trip, Wolfowitz will visit Gansu province in western China, where poverty is widespread in contrast to the boom on the eastern Chinese coast. Wolfowitz said China still has large areas of poverty that requires help, although the nation has gotten much attention as an economic success.

Last month in Washington, finance ministers completed a plan to forgive the debt of poor countries owed to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank _ a move that would provide poor nations with billions of dollars to increase spending on fighting poverty, improving education and buying drugs for HIV/AIDS or malaria.

The debt plan would forgive about US$40 billion worth of debt for at least 18 poor countries _ mostly in Africa, an area that Wolfowitz has made a "first priority" for World Bank aid efforts. The Group of Eight economic powers, which includes Japan, are pledging to underwrite the debt plan by covering the forgiven loan repayments, AP reports.


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