Pakistan's Zardari to visit Russia despite floods
Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has cut back a scheduled visit to Russia to a few hours and will not stay for lunch because of worsening floods in his country, his office said Friday.
"Yes, this tour has been cut short, it will be for a few hours now," presidency spokesman Farhatullah Babar told AFP.
Zardari had been supposed to arrive in Russia on August 18 for two days.
He came under fire from flood victims, the political opposition and critics over his failure to cut short a visit to Europe last week in order to deal personally with what is now the country's worst humanitarian crisis.
On Thursday he flew to the southern city of Sukkur to fend off the outcry by visiting a hard-hit area for the first time and meeting survivors.
Zardari will go to Russia to attend a four-way summit on regional security with the leaders of Afghanistan, Russia and Tajikistan.
"The original schedule for the president's two-day visit to Russia to participate in the quadrilateral summit was finalised several weeks ago, but now he will return to the country the same day," Babar said.
"The president will not participate in the lunch hosted in honour of the heads of states," he said in a statement.
Pakistan says two weeks of monsoon rain and flooding has affected 15-20 million people directly or indirectly. The United Nations believes 1,600 people have died, while Islamabad has confirmed 1,343 deaths.
© 2010 AFP