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. UN To Continue Pakistan Relief Despite Security Concerns

UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Vandemoortele emphasized that providing food and safe drinking water, improving sanitation, health surveillance, and keeping families warm and dry remain the key priorities until the end of the winter.
by Staff Writers
Islamabad, Pakistan (AFP) Feb 12, 2006
The United Nations vowed Sunday to continue providing relief to thousands of earthquake survivors in Kashmir, despite concerns over security in Pakistan following angry anti-Western protests.

"The humanitarian community in Pakistan continues to provide assistance to the thousands of earthquake survivors, despite security concerns over anti-cartoon protests," the UN said in a statement.

"The decision to temporarily restrict the movement of cargo and people did affect some minor aspects of the operation, but there has been no decision to remove UN personnel of any particular nationality in response to these security concerns," it said.

Thousands of Islamic hardliners protesting against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed torched Danish and US flags Friday in the largest rally in the Pakistani capital since the controversy began.

The 4,000 or so protesters chanted "Crush Denmark, crush America" as they burned an effigy of US President George W. Bush amid ongoing anger throughout the Muslim world at the caricatures.

UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Vandemoortele emphasized that providing food and safe drinking water, improving sanitation, health surveillance, and keeping families warm and dry remain the key priorities until the end of the winter.

"The principle of freedom of expression is only valid when it respects the fundamental beliefs and values of others," Vandemoortele said in statement.

"Restraint and respect, sensitivity and responsibility, are essential for achieving peaceful coexistence of pluralistic values and beliefs," he said.

The October 8 earthquake of 7.6 magnitude killed more than 73,000 people and made about three million homeless.

Rallies condemning the drawings depicting Prophet Mohammed have been held almost daily in Pakistan.

Around 2,000 people demonstrated Sunday in the central city of Multan. Protests were also held in Lahore and several other cities.

Pakistan's Islamic parties Saturday called for a nationwide strike on March 3 in protest at the publication of cartoons.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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