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UN Holds High Level Meeting on Pakistan, Few New Contributions

A high-level meeting on Pakistan's flood crisis held at the United Nations yielded only a few new contributions to a $2 billion humanitarian appeal. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hosted the meeting Sunday evening ahead of the U.N.'s annual gathering this week.

The session was intended to signal the international community's solidarity with the 20 million Pakistanis whose lives have been devastated by weeks of flooding caused by monsoon rains.

It comes on the heels of Friday's largest U.N. humanitarian appeal ever, asking for more than $2 billion for the next 12 months to assist flood victims. Those funds are designated for nearly 500 projects covering essential sectors such as housing, food, water, sanitation, hygiene and agriculture.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told participants that this is one of the most complex natural disasters the United Nations has ever faced. "The flooding has affected an estimated 20 million people and 20 percent of Pakistan's land. Eight to 12 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance," he said.

Although nations expressed their solidarity with the Pakistani people, there were few new contributions - mainly modest ones from Spain and Germany. Australia said it is increasing its aid to $75 million and Iran to $100 million, but it is not clear how big an increase that represents.

The most notable announcement came from Britain's International Development Minister Andrew Mitchell. "The British government announces today that we will provide a further $110 million immediately towards the relief effort," he said.

Mitchell said that funding would be directed toward three areas - rebuilding the agriculture sector and schools, and assisting southern Pakistan, where flood waters have yet to recede and fears of a health emergency continue.

The meeting mainly provided an opportunity for countries to reiterate their current commitments to Pakistan.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was among the participants. She said the United States has provided about $345 million in governmental assistance to Pakistan. "This money has gone to relief and early recovery, along with in-kind contributions and the very important rescue work that our military has done in rescuing 15,000 people and providing [more than 3.1 million kilograms] of relief supplies," she said.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said his country also has contributed $345 million in aid. The European Union has pledged $350 million. EU High Representative Catherine Ashton called for additional short-, medium- and long-term packages covering humanitarian and development assistance as well as ambitious trade measures.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi expressed the gratitude of his government and people for the support of the international community. He told reporters after the session that Pakistan is ready to do its part in the relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts. "We cannot expect the world to foot the entire bill. We don't expect that. We as a nation will have to mobilize resources. And we are doing so. We will have to reprioritize - and we are reprioritizing - our own expenditures. There is a tremendous national effort going on in Pakistan today," he said.

Representatives of the international community are scheduled to meet next month in Brussels and in November in Pakistan to discuss the flood and other issues affecting the country.