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Former US President named Pakistan quake envoy
Updated: 2005-12-16 09:07

Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush was appointed special U.N. envoy for Pakistan earthquake relief on Thursday and said he would use the role to ensure donations are converted into concrete aid for victims.

Bush, who has worked with former President Bill Clinton to raise money for victims of last December's Asian tsunami and the U.S. hurricane disasters, praised U.N. and Pakistani efforts and said he would allow his staff to manage the program.

"Our role is to try to help get the pledges -- and there have been very generous pledges made -- and have those converted into things that can benefit the people who are hurting over there in the terrible winter," Bush, the father of the current president, told a news conference.

The October 8 earthquake in Pakistan killed more than 73,000 people and made about 3 million homeless. International donors have promised Pakistan more than $6 billion in aid, mostly earmarked for long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The United Nations is seeking $550 million for a six-month relief operation, but so far donors have only given a fraction of that amount.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said having Bush leading the relief drive would put pressure on countries which have promised aid to follow through on commitments.

"He will have the capacity to to call on governments that have made pledges, reminding them that it was wonderful that they made those pledges but that the cash is needed now and that we need to ensure disbursement," Annan said.

Republican Bush, who was defeated by Democrat Clinton in the 1992 presidential election, said he consulted his former rival before taking the U.N. position. Clinton is U.N. special envoy for tsunami relief.

"He very much encouraged me to undertake this," said Bush, 81.

Bush, who served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the 1970s, said he still had "wonderful memories."

"You go down a corridor (and say) 'Oh, I remember going there!'" Bush said. Annan, he said, "very generously took me into his office, and I remember being in there with two other secretaries-general."

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