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Clinton: US Flood Aid to Pakistan to be Intensive, Long Term

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday said Pakistan can count on long-term U.S. support as it deals with the consequences of the worst flooding in decades.

The United States has already made several aid announcements and statements of sympathy to Pakistan concerning the flooding, but Clinton's televised appearance in the State Department treaty room gave a higher profile to U.S. efforts.

The secretary, who last visited Pakistan two weeks ago, stressed U.S. solidarity with Pakistan in the face of the flood losses and political violence this week, including a suicide attack in Peshawar on Wednesday.

"I want to convey the condolences of the American people to the Pakistani people on behalf of everything they are confronting. I've been to Pakistan, as you know, a number of times and I have seen firsthand the strength and resilience of the people of Pakistan. They have the capacity to come through this challenge and swiftly rebuild," Clinton said. "And as they do, they can look to the United States for support."

Clinton said the commitment thus far of $10 million in aid funds, military helicopters, food, water purification units and temporary bridges "represents just the start" of U.S. assistance efforts.

She noted the U.S. provision of hundreds of millions of dollars in the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake in northern Pakistan, and said flood aid is a continuation of that tradition.

The secretary urged private U.S. citizens to join the effort. She gave information on how cell phone users can make $10 contributions for Pakistan through the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

A similar text message campaign raised tens of millions of dollars for Haiti after that country's earthquake in January.

U.S. Agency for International Development administrator Rajiv Shah, who appeared with Clinton, dismissed a suggestion that the aid infusion is an image building exercise, and said it reflects the emerging U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership.

"As part of that: an absolute commitment to protect Pakistani people who are suffering from this tremendous disaster is one way to express the American commitment to Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. And from the moment this disaster happened late last week, the president and the secretary have asked us to be aggressive and coordinated in providing immediate relief," Shah said.

The Pentagon said Wednesday that six U.S. Army helicopters, diverted from service in Afghanistan, have arrived at the Ghazi Airbase in Pakistan, which is serving as the main logistics hub for flood relief. The U.S. military has already delivered nearly 200,000 packaged halal meals to Pakistan and is preparing to fly in another similar amount later this week.