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Fri, Oct 21, 2005

NATO Ponders Huge Airlift To Help Pakistani Quake Victims

Secretary General: "NATO Will Act Accordingly"

As UN officials tried to unravel the situation in quake-ravaged Pakistan they said was worse than the horror in Indonesia following the tsunami, NATO delegates were to meet Friday to decide how they will respond. They were reportedly going to consider urgent pleas for a massive airlift of food and equipment into the worst-hit areas of the Muslim country.

"You must rest assured that NATO fully realizes the gravity of the situation and … NATO will act accordingly," NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said, quoted by Reuters.

NATO delegates in Brussels were spurred by hand-wringing UN aid officials like Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, who told a Geneva news conference Thursday, "The emergency in Kashmir is becoming worse by the day as the extent... dawns on us. The world is not responding as we should be," Egeland told a news conference in Geneva. We have never had this kind of logistical nightmare ever. We thought the tsunami was bad, this is worse."

Already acting on its own, the Pentagon responded to an urgent call for light helicopters by the government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. At least 40 US helicopters are on the ground in Pakistan now.

"We need a second Berlin airbridge," Egeland said of the legendary airlift into West Berlin at the dawn of the Cold War. "We are humanitarians, we don't know how to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people in the Himalayas. But the most efficient military alliance in the world should be able to."

FMI: www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/pk.html

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