NATO in talks on `air bridge` with Pakistan: Shah Mehmood Qureshi

NATO officials are in talks with Islamabad on setting up an `air bridge` to fly in relief for millions of Pakistanis affected by devastating floods, Pakistan said on Monday.

Updated: Aug 16, 2010, 21:09 PM IST

Islamabad: NATO officials are in talks with
Islamabad on setting up an `air bridge` to fly in relief for
millions of Pakistanis affected by devastating floods,
Pakistan said on Monday.

Many areas are inaccessible by road and the only way to
provide relief to them was through helicopters, Foreign
Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a press conference in
Islamabad.

"A six-member NATO team is in Islamabad to discuss
modalities for the air bridge and to assess Pakistan`s needs,"
he said.

It is the second time NATO has engaged in relief efforts
in Pakistan, following the 2005 earthquake, which killed more
than 73,000 people and left around 3.5 million homeless.

"The NATO team held talks with officials in the foreign
office today to assess Pakistan`s needs and to discuss the
establishment of an air bridge for relief goods," Qureshi
said.

He said Japan had also sent a team to Islamabad to assess
"our needs and to provide helicopters in the ongoing relief
and rescue operations."

Qureshi is scheduled to attend a special session of the
UN General Assembly in New York on the Pakistan floods on
Thursday, which he said UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton would address.

While he thanked the international community for its
quick response, he said Pakistan had to "sensitise them about
the scale and magnitude of the disaster".

"This is an unprecedented flood and international effort
should also be unprecedented," he said.

Described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world
today, the three-week disaster has affected 20 million people,
and has destroyed crops, infrastructure, towns and villages,
according to the Pakistani government.

The United Nations has launched an aid appeal for USD 460
million, but charities say the response has been sluggish and
flood survivors on the ground have lashed out against the weak
civilian government for failing to help.

PTI