U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was set on Thursday to tour a camp for people displaced in Pakistan's massive earthquake, as several dozen residents of Indian-controlled Kashmir planned to cross the heavily fortified border to visit relatives on the Pakistani side. Annan's visit comes a day after Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf appealed for more than US$5 billion (Ђ4.3 billion) in aid to rebuild the earthquake-ravaged north.
The U.N. chief was expected to visit a camp for displaced people in Muzaffarabad, the main city in the Pakistan portion of Kashmir, ahead of an international donors conference in Islamabad on Saturday. The magnitude-7.6 quake on Oct. 8 destroyed the homes of about 3 million people, leaving hundreds of thousands living in tents while an unknown number have no shelter at all.
Most of the more than 87,000 deaths were in Pakistani territory. About 1,350 died in India's portion of Kashmir, which is divided between the two countries but claimed in its entirety by both. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry said 83 Indian citizens have been approved to cross into Pakistan at the Chakothi-Uri border crossing point by foot on Thursday, although it wasn't clear how many would do so.
Pakistan and India agreed last month to allow people from either side to cross over at five points along the Line of Control, their de-facto border. Yet so far, the sides have only exchanged food, blankets and other aid supplies. Delays in allowing people to cross have been blamed on the need to clear landslides from roads and Indian fears that separatist Muslim militants may be among those trying to cross from Pakistan.
Ahead of the donor's conference, Musharraf said Pakistan had so far received "negligible" funds from donors, but expressed confidence it could raise the US$5.2 billion (euro4.4 billion) needed "for relief and reconstruction and sustainable rehabilitation." Personal appeals he has made to world leaders for aid have received positive responses, he said Wednesday.
Musharraf said that if the funds he sought were not forthcoming, it would affect Pakistan's development, particularly the social sector. "We will do it ourselves if the world community does not help us," he said, but added that the world should assist Pakistan as it did nations hit by last year's tsunami in Asia, and Hurricane Katrina in the United States.
Quake costs also threaten to eat into Pakistan's massive spending on its armed forces. Despite continuing tensions with India over Kashmir, which both sides claim, Musharraf suspended the purchase of new jet fighters from the United States. He also said he has yet to approve a planned US$1 billion (Ђ860 million) purchase of an airborne surveillance system from Sweden. I.L.
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