EU leaders pledge to improve disaster response

EU leaders on Thursday pledged to improve the bloc's response to natural disasters and said it was ready to do more to help the victims of the South Asian earthquake.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who currently holds the EU presidency, said his government had suggested creating a "standing fund" to allow the international community to respond more quickly.

"The South Asian earthquake has shown once again it is necessary to have a better system of international response to these situations," Blair told reporters at the close of a one-day informal EU summit.

In a statement, the leaders noted that the 25 member states had pledged more than Ђ200 million (US$242.6 million), plus helicopters, aircraft and engineers to the international relief effort and that the European Commission had pledged an additional Ђ80 million (US$96 million) in emergency aid last week.

"We stand ready to do more," they said in a statement during a summit at Hampton Court southwest of London. "The EU emphasizes the importance it places on reacting swiftly and effectively to disasters of this kind ... We are determined to make our disaster response across the board more effective.", AP reported. V.A.