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Holbrooke vows aid to Pakistan

Fri., June 5, 2009, midnight

U.S. envoy visits displaced refugees

SHAIKH SHAHZAD CAMP, Pakistan – Top U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke brought promises of more American aid to sweltering camps where some of the 3 million refugees uprooted by Pakistan’s offensive against the Taliban have fled.

In conversations in tents and under thatch-roofed buildings Thursday, Holbrooke, appointed in January as U.S. special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, also stressed that Washington’s role in the crisis was to help the refugees, not the military – a message aimed at quelling deep suspicions in Pakistan that the Swat Valley campaign was launched at Washington’s behest.

Meanwhile, the military said late Thursday that security forces had arrested three key associates of Sufi Muhammad, a hard-line cleric who brokered a February truce between Pakistan and the Swat militants – a deal that collapsed after the Taliban tried to expand their presence to a district outside Swat.

Holbrooke told refugees the U.S. government has asked Congress to approve another $200 million in humanitarian aid for them, on top of $110 million already promised.

The United Nations warned Thursday that food and essential medicine in the camps may run out by early July if more money is not given to their relief efforts for the Pakistani refugees. The U.N. humanitarian affairs organization said it had received $119 million of the $543 million it has forecast it needs to care for refugees until the end of the year.

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