Ex-U.S. President Bush to become special envoy for Pakistan quake relief

The U.N. secretary-general has appointed former U.S. President George H.W. Bush as his special envoy for rehabilitation and reconstruction in quake-hit areas of northwestern Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday. Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said Kofi Annan called Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday night to inform him of the appointment.

"It is a good selection and we welcome it," she said, and expressed hope that it will help relieve many problems faced by the Oct. 8 quake survivors.

Pakistan's military, with the help of international aid agencies and foreign countries, has been running one of the world's biggest relief operations in northern parts of the country since the Oct. 8 quake struck, killing 87,000 people and destroying the homes of 3.5 million others. Most survivors have been living in tents donated by the U.N. and aid groups amid growing concerns that a harsh winter could deal a blow to aid efforts.

Bush's appointment came a day after U.N. humanitarian relief coordinator Jan Vandemoortele appealed for an additional US$45 million (Ђ38 million) to provide survivors with thick blankets and shelter materials. He said another 2.4 million blankets, 170,000 plastic sheets and 200,000 tarpaulins also were needed.

"We have a concern about the continued flow of the contributions," he said, adding that aid has slowed to about just one-quarter of what was coming in last month.

Last month, international donors meeting in Pakistan pledged more than US$6 billion (Ђ5 billion) in aid and soft loans. Aslam said Thursday that the elder Bush was a well known personality, and she hoped that he would be helpful in urging countries to continue assisting Pakistan.

Bush, together with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, also helped raise funds for victims of last year's Asian tsunami, reports the AP. I.L.

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