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Holbrooke seeks more EU support for Swat refugees

Holbrooke seeks more EU support for Swat refugees
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First Published: Tue, Jul 28 2009. 07 58 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Jul 28 2009. 07 58 PM IST
Brussels: The US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan urged the European Union on Tuesday to provide more humanitarian assistance to refugees who have fled fighting between Pakistan’s military and Taliban militants.
The European Commission said last month it would provide €20 million ($27.7 million) to help people from the Swat valley combat zone and ask European Union (EU) states to provide a further €45 million from a reserve fund.
But Richard Holbrooke, who has just visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, said after talks with EU and North Atlantic Treaty Orgainzation (NATO) officials, “The EU membership countries should in my view do more to help Pakistan with this enormous refugee crisis.”
“I would like to see more support from the EU. The United States has given for the refugees alone $330 million. The EU, I hope, would step up to the plate and do an equal amount or more,” he said in Brussels.
Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the combat zone since fighting broke out in late April. Holbrooke stressed that the crisis was in a region containing active al Qaeda and Taliban militants.
“This is more than a humanitarian crisis,” he said. “This is a strategic issue as well, because those refugees are in the exact area where al Qaeda and the Taliban are and it’s right up against the Afghan border.”
Holbrooke expressed continuing US frustration about the unwillingness of some EU countries to do more in Afghanistan as part of a coalition of more than 40 states, but added, “We are not here in this administration ... going to repeat the fruitless, unproductive drama of coming to this city every year and banging on about issues or restrictions and troop levels.”
“We hope that the amount of support will increase as time goes forward because we are all in this together and every country represented in the coalition is a potential target, not the least of which is the city that houses the NATO headquarters,” he said in reference to the Belgian capital.
The 27-country EU and the United States want to boost ties with nuclear-armed Pakistan because of concern about the spread of Islamic militancy there and fears that nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of militants.
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First Published: Tue, Jul 28 2009. 07 58 PM IST