Pakistan seeks 500,000 tonnes of US wheat

June 15th, 2008 - 3:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, June 15 (IANS) Pakistan has sought 500,000 tonnes of wheat from the US and is also on the verge of receiving $500 million from the World Bank to deal with the food and energy crisis that is threatening to cripple its economy. “The wheat will be provided under PL-480, a US food assistance programme set up for the world’s poorest states unable to feed their people,” Dawn said Sunday in a report from Washington.

US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher revealed Pakistan’s efforts to seek financial and food assistance.

“They’re talking to the World Bank about the loans and help and we’re involved in that as well,” a transcript released by the State Department over the weekend quoted Boucher as saying.

Boucher, who looks after South Asian affairs at the State Department, also expressed America’s desire to help the democratic process in Pakistan.

“We’re looking in the longer term at how we take advantage of the democratic opportunity to offer broader and deeper support to Pakistan generally,” he said.

“But they’re also dealing with some immediate problems, and we are taking what steps we can to help them with that. And we’re looking at things like food problems and financial problems and seeing what we can do,” he added.

Quoting sources in the World Bank, Dawn said a delegation comprising officials of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund visited Islamabad last month for talks on a $500 million development-support credit.

Negotiations were completed earlier this month and the proposal now awaits a final nod from the Bank’s board of directors that is expected by the end of this month or early July.

Pakistan also appealed for food assistance earlier this month when M. B. Abbasi visited Washington as a special envoy of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

He brought a letter from Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party that heads the ruling coalition, for Senator Tom Harkin, who chairs the US Senate Agriculture Committee, requesting 500,000 tonnes of wheat.

Pakistan later submitted a formal request for assistance under the PL-480 programme.

Pakistan received a lot of assistance under this programme in the 1960s but then opted out of it, claiming it was producing enough for its people.

In 2001, when faced with a famine, Pakistan received one-time assistance of $70 million under PL-480.

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