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Last Updated: Friday, 7 January, 2005, 17:21 GMT
EU seeks to boost tsunami relief
Tsunami survivor in ruins of home in Devanah Pattinam, India
Long-term reconstruction aid is needed in the region
The European Union has voiced its commitment to long-term reconstruction in countries hit by the Asian tsunami.

Foreign, health and development ministers from the 25-member bloc held a special meeting in Brussels, attended by senior UN officials.

Proposals for debt relief for the affected countries and an EU rapid response force for future humanitarian crises were also being considered.

The EU has pledged aid worth nearly 1.5bn euros ($2bn or 1bn).

The head of the World Health Organization, David Nabarro, and UN children's agency (Unicef) chief Carol Bellamy attended the Brussels meeting.

TSUNAMI VICTIMS - EUROPEANS
Germany - 60 dead, 1,000 missing
Sweden - 52 dead, 1,903 missing or unaccounted for
UK - 49 dead, 391 unaccounted for
Switzerland - 23 dead, 105 missing
France - 22 dead, 90 missing
Italy - 20 dead, 338 missing
Finland - 15 dead, 177 missing
Norway - 12 dead, 80 missing
Austria - 10 dead, 443 missing
Denmark - 7 dead, 57 missing
Netherlands - 7 dead, at least 30 missing
Belgium - 6 dead, 65 missing

EU officials say the talks were aimed at coordinating ideas ahead of a donors' conference to be hosted by the UN in Geneva next week.

In a draft statement, the EU ministers pledged their commitment to "rapid and coordinated" international reconstruction efforts in the region, including better allocation of the EU's military resources.

Germany and Sweden are among the European nations hardest hit by the 26 December tsunami, with at least 60 and 52 confirmed dead, respectively. Hundreds more are missing, presumed dead.

The UK government says 49 Britons have been confirmed dead and 391 remain unaccounted for.

The EU pledged 350m euros ($462m or 246m) and a 1bn euro concessional loan through the European Investment Bank to help reconstruction in the Indian Ocean region, on top of the 100m euros pledged earlier for emergency relief.

Individual European countries have also made their own pledges.

A statement from the aid agency Oxfam urged the EU to come up with a five-year plan of "grants, not loans, focused on poverty reduction" to help the tsunami victims.

The EU's Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, Franco Frattini, has said the EU could also offer temporary refuge to hundreds of thousands of children affected by the tsunami if it accepts changes to its asylum laws.

He told the Italian newspaper la Repubblica on Friday he had proposed offering to bring the children to the EU for several months, allowing them to recover from their trauma and to avoid the danger of criminal gangs exploiting them.

But such a move would require an extension of the EU's temporary asylum regulations.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
How the EU plans to help tsunami victims



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