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U.N. Urges Donor Nations to Speed Delivery of Tsunami Aid

Secretary General Annan asked leaders of nations who have pledged money to make sure that the donations are made available quickly. U.N. officials told attendees to the donors conference that some nations who had pledged aid money for past disasters did not fulfill their promises. Some $4 billion has been pledged for the relief effort, and Annan called for immediate delivery of $1 billion in aid.

“What happened on 26 December 2004 was an unprecedented, global catastrophe. It requires an unprecedented, global response,” Annan said.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization said Thursday if “basic needs” such as clean food, potable water, and adequate medical care aren’t met in the affected areas in a matter of days, fatalities from disease could equal those from the original disaster. Nearly 150,000 have been confirmed dead from tsunami flooding.

The conference also considered proposals for the easing or forgiveness of debts owed by the affected nations. Japanese Pres. Junichiro Koizumi announced that his country was placing a moratorium on debt owed by the nations struck by the disaster.

“The affected nations were hit by a huge disaster which may strike only once in 100 years,” Koizumi told reporters after his speech at the conference. “I think a debt moratorium for a certain period is necessary and I would like to urge other nations to do so.”

British Finance Minister Gordon Brown announced in Edinburgh Thursday that the British government would also provide a debt moratorium for affected nations who requested it.

Some countries like Belgium have urge that governments worldwide consider the complete forgiveness of debt owed by the hardest hit nations. However, Australian Prime Minister John Howard warned that there is no guarantee that the forgiven debt payments would go to help victims. Howard said that Australia is still willing to consider a moratorium.

The conference members also agreed to work toward a tsunami warning system for the region. Because tsunamis have been rare in South Asia, no warning system exists. A Hawaii-based warning system that covers a number of countries in the Pacific Ocean has been credited with saving thousands of lives.

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