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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 05:45 GMT
Disaster talks agree action plan
Refugees queue for food in Banda Aceh, Indonesia
Millions have been affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami
A UN conference has adopted an action plan to reduce casualties and damage caused by natural disaster, following the recent Indian Ocean tsunami.

Delegates from around the world in the Japanese city of Kobe agreed on the need to build early warning systems and make disaster preparation a priority.

But the five-day forum failed to set specific targets or deadlines from implementing the plan.

Last month's tsunami killed more than 160,000 people.

'Framework for Action'

After marathon talks, delegates agreed on the text of a declaration that was then approved at the end of the conference on Saturday.

"It is vital to give high priority to disaster risk reduction in national policy, consistent with [governments' ] capacities and resources available," the declaration said.

"We believe it is critically important that the Hyogo Framework for Action be translated into concrete action at all levels," the document - named after Hyogo Prefecture - said.

The forum also agreed to put the UN in charges of building a tsunami alert system for the Indian Ocean to be operational in up to 18 months.

The plan urges nations to share satellite-based weather forecasting data, draw up hazard maps and work out disaster-response strategies over the next 10 years.

However, UN relief chief Jan Egeland acknowledged that the adopted documents were largely symbolic.

"The decisions of this conference are not legally binding documents but carry a strong moral commitment by states and organisations," Mr Egeland said.

'Slow process'

The action plan also fell short of setting specific targets or funding deadlines.

UN relief chief Jan Egeland (left) shakes hands a Japanese official in Kobe
The deal was struck after lengthy talks

UN representative Salvano Briceno said differences in opinion and a general tone of the plan were inevitable with so many delegates attending.

"When there are so many differences, so many views among countries, it is a slow process," Mr Briceno told the AFP news agency.

"It has to be and the outcome has to be a very general document," he added.

The meeting in Kobe was initially planned to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the earthquake that ravaged the city.

But it took on a new dimension after the 26 December tsunami that affected more than 10 countries.

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