World News: Pakistan's floods to outstrip world's last three disasters

THE United Nations is to launch an appeal for the victims of floods in Pakistan, which it warned could affect more people than the world's last three great disasters combined.

It said the toll could exceed the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2005 Kashmir earthquake and the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Deaths in each of those were much higher than the 1,500 people killed so far in the floods that first hit Pakistan two weeks ago, but the Pakistani government estimates that over 13 million people have been affected - two million more than the other disasters combined.

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Rescue workers have been unable to reach up to 600,000 people marooned in Swat Valley, where many were still trying to recover from an intense battle between the army and the Taliban last spring.

Bad weather has prevented helicopters from reaching the area, which is inaccessible by ground, and a UN spokesman said: "We are highly concerned about their situation".

Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has returned home from official visit to Europe, to a chorus of criticism over his government's response to the floods.

Putin issues wheat warning

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that the country's wheat harvest will be down more than a third this year after a record drought. As a heatwave and wildfires continue around Moscow, it was confirmed that the mortality rate in the city has doubled.

Japan's PM apologises

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan offered his country's latest of several apologies to South Korea for colonial rule decades ago as part of an effort to strengthen ties between the two countries.

Mr Kan expressed deep regret over the suffering inflicted during Japan's rule over the Korean peninsula from 1910-45 rule.

The prime minister also pledged that Tokyo would return Korean cultural relics to the country.

Bolivian gas find is hailed

Bolivian officials said that the new natural gas deposits discovered by drilling deeper in a 25-year-old well in the country's southeast will add a trillion cubic feet to national reserves.

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The well will produce an estimated 6.2 million cubic feet of gas a day.

Guinea vote decision ends speculation

Guinea: It was announced that the second round of the presidential election will be held on September 19, ending weeks of speculation and political wrangling following the first round of the vote.

United States: Former Vice President Dick Cheney, 69, was released from a suburban Washington hospital following heart surgery last month, and will continue his recovery at home. He has had a small pump installed to help his heart.

Brothers deny church bombing

Two Malaysian Muslim brothers have denied charges that they firebombed a church in an incident that set off a string of assaults on places of worship early this year.

Last January's burning of the church raised religious tensions in the country.

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