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Premier Wen to Attend Tsunami Summit

Premier Wen Jiabao will fly to Indonesia for an emergency tsunami summit on Thursday as the nation adds government aid and folk donations.

Wen will attend a summit organized by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). More than 20 heads of state or government and representatives of international organizations will also be in attendance to discuss the aid efforts to help Asia's quake-tsunami-hit countries.

"Regional cooperation on disaster prevention will also top the agenda," said a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

At least nine Chinese nationals have been confirmed dead in the disaster. The death toll from last week's earthquake and tsunami has exceeded 140,000, including 2,500 foreigners. In addition 7,000 other foreigners were missing.

President Hu Jintao said over the weekend that the Chinese Government is willing to provide "any possible aid in its power to those in need." Hu expressed his sincere sympathy to the countries that have lost so much in the tsunami.

"China sincerely wishes its neighboring countries would conquer the natural disaster and soon rebuild their homeland," Hu said at a meeting of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference on Saturday.

Till Sunday, China had raised an estimated US$65.3 million in government, charitable and public donations. The number will rise as more organizations report figures.

The government increased its aid by an additional 500 million yuan (US$60.46 million) of humanitarian aid to the tsunami-hit countries on Friday. Chinese residents have been queuing to donate money to help survivors of the Christmas tsunami rebuild their lives and stave off the threat of disease.

On Sunday, another 14 medical experts left Beijing for Sri Lanka - the third medical team sent by China to the affected countries.

"Relief goods and spot-exchange for other countries will arrive at their destinations within a few days," said Wang Hanjiang, an official with the Ministry of Commerce. The Ministry of Commerce would be responsible for the maneuver of aid while the Ministry of Civil Affairs would coordinate the collecting of donations from non-governmental organizations and the public.

Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing discussed by telephone the best way the country can offer its aid with Secretary General of United Nations (UN) Kofi Annan and World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Lee Jong-wook on Saturday night.

He expressed China's desire to "strengthen the cooperation with UN and WHO by helping rescue survivors, prevent disease and supply clean water and reconstruct homes."

(China Daily January 3, 2005)

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