08/11/2006, 00.00
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Seoul sends 14 million dollars worth of aid to north

The aid package includes rice and building materials to face the emergency that arose due to recent floods. Official South Korean sources said: this aid is given unconditionally; it is purely humanitarian intervention. Aid was suspended after missile tests conducted in July.

Seoul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The South Korean government will send at least 14 million dollars worth of aid to flood-ravaged North Korea in a one-off package that includes rice and building materials, officials say.

South Korea, a major supplier of aid to North Korea, had cut off its regular food assistance after the North defied international warnings and fired seven missiles on July 5.

Three major storms hit the North last month, causing flooding that killed at least 151 people, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

A pro-Pyongyang paper put the death toll at 549 with 295 missing.

"The [South Korean] Government's aid will come in the form of about 10 billion won ( million) in food and medication and will join aid to be provided by private groups," a Unification Ministry official said.

He says loss of farm land in the North was heavy, which could tip the already impoverished communist state into famine.

"There will be additional aid that will be made through the Red Cross," the official said, adding it will include building materials and equipment, but the size and makeup of that package will be determined next week.

Rice will form a major part of both aid packages, he said.

North Korea had turned down a previous offer of help from the South's Red Cross, but a North Korean official has since said the country would not refuse help if came with no strings attached.

South Korea says it could resume its regular food aid to North Korea if Pyongyang returned to stalled talks on ending its nuclear weapons program.

"This aid package will be of purely humanitarian nature," a ruling Uri Party spokesman, Noh Woong-rae, said after a meeting of party and government officials.

On Wednesday, in its first request for help over the floods, a North Korean committee on reconciliation asked its counterpart in the South for building materials, food, blankets and medicine.

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