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Pakistan's 'Friends' Call for Reform


US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (l) and Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign and security affairs chief, answer reporters' questions after a bilateral meeting EU headquarters in Brussels, 14 Oct 2010

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (l) and Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign and security affairs chief, answer reporters' questions after a bilateral meeting EU headquarters in Brussels, 14 Oct 2010

An international group known as the Friends of Democratic Pakistan said Friday that Pakistan is in urgent need of reform if the country is to become stable.

International delegates met in Brussels on Friday to discuss how Pakistan can recover from shattering floods and move forward economically.

The European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the meeting showed how committed the international community is to helping Pakistan.

"I think we've taken a step forward in addressing the pressing needs that will enable Pakistan to recover from the devastating floods and to build this stable and prosperous and democratic society," said Catherine Ashton.

The group, known as the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, is made up of 26 countries and international groups from all over the world, including the United States, Iran, and China.

Delegates talked about planned reforms for Pakistan, including its energy system and water supplies.

Taxation was also at the top of the agenda.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said wealthy Pakistanis need to pay more taxes in order to contribute towards flood relief.

On Friday Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmoud Qureshi, who co-chaired the meet along with Ashton, said tax reform is on the cards.

"I think there is a recognition that our tax base is not broad enough if we want the economy to grow we will have to put in a greater national effort into resource mobilization," said Qureshi.

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank estimates that floods in Pakistan since July have cost almost $10 billion in damages.

The U.S. and the EU have each paid almost $500 million in aid.

The EU has also offered to drop tariffs on 75 Pakistani products in order to stimulate trade. But some European ministers have expressed their reservations and say the deal could only go ahead with conditions.

On Friday Qureshi said dropping tariffs would help Pakistan's economy.

"This enhanced market access is what will create jobs, this is what will stabilize the economy and also lead to a long term strategic partnership between the European Union and Pakistan," he said.

Twenty one million people have been affected by the floods in Pakistan and, according to the U.N., 12 million people are in need of emergency help.

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