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France's Sarkozy calls for European natural disaster force

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants the EU to set up a rapid reaction force for natural disasters such as earthquakes, wildfires and floods. France has also pledged immediate aid to Pakistani flood victims.

German rescuers helping out after the South Asia earthquake

The proposed force would draw on each nation's resources

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called on the European Union to establish a unified rapid reaction force to deal with natural disasters.

Sarkozy addressed the issue in light of devastating flooding in Pakistan - but made reference to other natural disasters such as recent wildfires in Russia and the Haiti earthquake.

"We must take the necessary measures and build a real EU reaction force ... that draws on the resources of the member states," the president said in the letter, made public on Sunday, to EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy

Sarkozy called for Europe to completely engage with the situation in Pakistan

Sarkozy said France would make proposals for the reaction force to other member states in the near future.

Military mobilized

The French president said his country was mobilizing military units to help Pakistan deal with massive flooding in the country and urged Europe to "completely engage" with the situation.

"It strikes me as essential, for obvious humanitarian and political reasons, that Europe shows it solidarity with the Pakistani population in a visible manner," Sarkozy said in the letter.

The French Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it would begin by sending a plane carrying 60 metric tons of food aid to the country, where some 20 million people have been hit by the floods.

Pakistani villagers make their way through floodwater

Some 20 million people have been hit by flooding in Pakistan

France has also offered the services of its military equipment to help transport aid within Pakistan. The aircraft is set to leave France on Wednesday, and arrive in Islamabad on Thursday.

More money needed

Previously, France had allocated one million euros in financial aid for Pakistan to help the country deal with the flooding.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday said more money was needed to help deal with the Pakistan situation, with a United Nations' special aid fund still around 75 percent shy of its 360 million euros ($460 million) target.

The German government has said that it has answered the call, having donated 15 million euros, although civilian donations from the country have been low.

Author: Mark Hallam, Richard Connor (AFP/dpa/Reuters)

Editor: Sarah Harman

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