U.S. Vice President to visit quake-hit areas in Pakistan

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was expected to tour quake-hit areas in Kashmir during his trip to Pakistan, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday Shortly after his scheduled arrival in Islamabad later Tuesday, Cheney was to meet with the country's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the spokeswoman, Tasnim Aslam, said.

Cheney would later travel to Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, where the Oct. 8 quake killed thousands of people, including women and children, she said. An estimated 87,000 people were killed in the 7.6-magnitude quake, while 3.5 million others were left homeless. Most survivors have been living in tents for weeks.

The U.S. military has set up a field hospital in Muzaffarabad and several U.S. helicopters have been ferrying aid to the badly damaged areas, especially to the highlands where heavy snow and rains are expected this week.

Islamabad is a key ally of the United States in its war on terror and Aslam said Cheney's visit was meant to express solidarity with Pakistan. The U.S. military has said its helicopters will remain in Pakistan as long as the country need them, reports the AP. I.L.