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Annan urges aid for quake victims

Pakistan, India open border

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan -- Civilians crossed Pakistan's disputed frontier with India yesterday for the first time since the devastating Oct. 8 earthquake, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan appealed to donors at a key conference on reconstruction to give generously for victims of the disaster.

About two dozen mostly elderly men who had been visiting family in Pakistan when the quake struck walked to the Indian side across a dry river bed under a damaged bridge at the Chakothi-Uri checkpoint. No one crossed over from the Indian side into Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

The move marked another step toward realizing a breakthrough agreement reached last month to let people from either side of Kashmir cross over at five points along the frontier to help relief efforts and allow divided families to reunite. Until yesterday, the two sides had only exchanged relief supplies.

Delays in letting people cross have been blamed on bureaucratic problems and New Delhi's fears that separatist Muslim militants fighting Indian rule in Kashmir may be among those seeking to cross. Pakistan and India have fought two wars over the Himalayan territory, which both claim in its entirety.

Annan, meanwhile, said he expected both governments and donors from the private sector to ''be generous, to give and give willingly."

Annan, arriving at an air base outside Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, said additional deaths had been caused by logistical problems in bringing aid to quake victims, and more could die of cold and hunger.

''We need more resources, not just for the emergency, but recovery and reconstruction," Annan said, appealing to governments, the private sector, and individuals.

Annan will tour the quake zone and attend the donors' conference tomorrow.

General Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, has appealed for more than $5 billion in aid to rebuild the earthquake-ravaged north.

The United Nations is stressing the need for more financial support to sustain its emergency relief effort through the winter. The world body has received only $119 million so far, and another $40 million in pledges out of $550 million it has been seeking since last month to finance emergency relief over six months.

The magnitude-7.6 quake left more than 87,000 dead, mostly in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir. About 1,350 died in India's portion of Kashmir. The quake destroyed the homes of about 3 million people, leaving hundreds of thousands living in tents. An unknown number have no shelter.

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