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Denmark invites 191 leaders to climate summit

Denmark has officially invited 191 heads of state and government to the United Nations’ climate summit in Copenhagen next month.

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The office of the Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen confirmed the invitations to the December gathering were made via Denmark’s diplomatic missions.

“Your personal attendance is a pivotal contribution to a successful outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference,” Rasmussen wrote in the invitation.

The official invite marks an additional push on global leaders to attend the much anticipated conference.

“Our joint efforts will be judged by the citizens of the world on December 18 when we close the conference,” the letter said.

During preparatory talks held in Barcelona last week, UN climate chief Yvo de Boer urged world leaders to attend the summit.

“I have never before witnessed a moment in time when this issue has been so high on the agenda of world leaders,” he told reporters.

“We must capitalise on that in Copenhagen by inviting world leaders to give the Copenhagen outcome the final push and get us to a result.” Despite the fact the formal invitation was only made on Thursday, de Boer said 40 heads of state and government were already tipped to attend.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is on that list, along with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Brazilian President Lula Inacio da Silva.

UN climate conferences are usually attended by environment ministers rather than heads of state and government, but the stakes in Copenhagen are such that world leaders have been urged to attend.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon strongly encouraged all heads of state and government to attend the key talks in Copenhagen.

Ban “believes that direct head of state and government involvement is essential for governments to reach agreement on the core issues at the heart of a global climate change deal,” a UN statement said.

Environmental group Greenpeace also lauded the official invitation. “Some heads of state have been ducking the question about going to the Copenhagen Climate Summit by saying no formal invitation has come from Denmark,” said Greenpeace Denmark spokesperson Tove Ryding.

“That excuse is now gone.” The Copenhagen marathon is designed to climax a two-year process of negotiations leading to a worldwide agreement for tackling climate change beyond 2012.

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Japan plans to boost domestic investment

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has instructed Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Masayuki Naoshima to compile “a programme to promote domestic investment” by October.

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Kan plans to incorporate part of the blueprint into a fresh stimulus he will outline on Tuesday, the Yomiuri Shimbun and other media reported.

“In order to fix the economy, the first to do is (create) jobs, the second to do is jobs,” Kan told reporters Saturday, the Yomiuri said.

The main feature of the plan would be measures to promote domestic investment from some 200 trillion yen (2.36 trillion dollars) of cash and deposits kept by Japanese companies, the reports said.

Kan renewed pressure on the central bank to take additional monetary easing measures, reportedly saying: “I’d like to see the Bank of Japan governor as soon as he returns (from a trip to the United States) and mention what we expect them to do.”

The reports came as Kan said Friday he would outline measures to counter the effects of the yen’s strength this week, implying possible intervention by saying he would take “determined steps when necessary”.

The measures could include subsidies for buying environmentally friendly goods, job creation programmes, financial aid to small and mid-sized companies and public spending on infrastructure such as hospitals, a senior official of Kan’s Democratic Party of Japan has said.

The yen this week hit 15-year highs against the dollar, threatening exporters as it erodes repatriated profits, inflicting damage on Japan’s key growth driver.

Roughly 40 percent of Japanese firms say they would move factories overseas if the yen stays at its current high of around 85 to the dollar, according to an official survey released Friday.

Earlier reports Saturday said the BOJ will likely hold an emergency policy meeting early this week to discuss additional monetary easing.

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No ceasefire in sight for Bangkok

The Thai government has ruled out negotiating with “Red Shirt” demonstrators until they end their crippling Bangkok protest, after the protesters agreed to crisis talks mediated by senators.

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Five days of clashes with troops have left 38 dead and reduced parts of Bangkok to battle zones, with smoke billowing from piles of tyres set ablaze by demonstrators occupying the city’s main shopping district.

As the United Nations urged Thailand to “step back from the brink”, some 60 senators sent a letter to the government and the Reds on Monday, urging them to halt the violence and enter into talks organised by the upper house.

“The Reds agree to accept the proposal by the senate speaker who wants to mediate the talks, and are ready to join from now,” said protest leader Nattawut Saikuar.

“We will not go with any conditions, the senator is free to offer any proposals and we are willing to consider them,” he added, in a climbdown from earlier demands for talks brokered by the UN or another international agency.

But cabinet minister Satit Wonghnongtaey said in a nationally televised news conference that there could only be negotiations and a resolution “when demonstrators disperse”.

Two previous rounds of negotiations have collapsed “due to interference from people overseas,” he said, in an apparent reference to fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

The government has accused Thaksin, who lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence for corruption, of undermining reconciliation efforts and funding the Reds’ campaign.

Underlining the mistrust between the two sides, the deputy premier in charge of security affairs, Suthep Thaugsuban, dismissed as “nonsense” a separate Reds’ offer of a ceasefire.

“The security forces are carrying out their duties in line with the authorities’ orders,” Suthep said after troops moved in to seal the rally zone, triggering violent clashes with protesters on the perimeters of the camp.

“Our containment measures aim to stop the food supply, reduce the number of new protesters and put pressure on them to go home,” he said, adding that an all-out crackdown to clear the camp was “our last resort”.

The Reds, who are campaigning for elections to replace the administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, have defied a Monday deadline to disperse from the upscale shopping district which they have occupied for two months.

A police spokesman said there were still around 5,000 protesters, including hundreds of women and children, at the fortified rally site and that large crowds have also gathered at three other locations in the city.

The violence, which eased Tuesday with only sporadic gunfire, turned parts of the city of 12 million into no-go zones as troops used live ammunition against protesters, who fought back mainly with homemade weapons.

Amnesty International accused Thailand’s army of “reckless use of lethal force” in its campaign to seal off the protest zone, which has left 38 dead and 279 injured since last Thursday.

The capital’s two main train systems, the underground and the overhead “sky train”, are closed and schools and government offices have been shut this week to keep civilians off the streets.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on both sides to negotiate an end to the violence, saying there was a high risk it could “spiral out of control” after the expiry of the Monday deadline.

“To prevent further loss of life, I appeal to the protesters to step back from the brink, and the security forces to exercise maximum restraint in line with the instructions given by the government,” she said in a statement.

But protesters were in a defiant mood at their encampment, dancing and waving heart-shaped clappers in front of a stage as leaders rallied the crowd.

The Reds consider Abhisit’s government illegitimate because it came to power with the backing of the army, in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court ruling ousted elected Thaksin’s allies.

The two-month crisis has now left 67 people dead and about 1,700 wounded. Twenty-five people died in a failed army crackdown on April 10.

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Immigration apologises for Malu Sara

Four years after the Malu Sara tragedy, the Immigration Department has finally said sorry to the families, friends and colleagues of the five deceased.

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The Malu Sara, an Immigration Department patrol boat, sank in 2005 with the loss of five lives, including two immigration officials from the Torres Strait.

‘Avoidable tragedy’

Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe made the apology in Senate Estimate hearings, after visiting the Torres Strait last week to mark the fourth anniversary of the tragedy.

“I would like again to acknowledge the department’s deep sadness at the loss of life and to record the department’s condolences to the families, to the friends and the colleagues of those who were lost and to the wider Torres Strait communities.

The department is deeply sorry that the tragic sequence of events that occured and the losses suffered by those affected by this avoidable tragedy”, Mr Metcalfe said.

Queensland coroner Michael Barnes earlier this year delivered damning inquest findings against the Immigration department and others over what he called a totally avoidable tragedy. The boat was launched in August 2005 by then Immigration minister Amanda Vanstone.

A terrible chain of events

Barnes found those who died were victims of a terrible chain of events, from the purchase of an unseaworthy boat to a flawed search and rescue effort.

When no hope came, the engines failed and water leaked into the supposedly watertight bilge faster than it could be pumped out, it is likely the boat capsized and soon sank”, he wrote.

“The wretched dread as a mother seeking to cling to her terrified child as they were dumped into the dark and wild sea is too terrible to contemplate…

It is likely that people passed quickly under the waves, however at least one poor soul struggled on in vain for a day. His hopes surely soared when search aircraft came into view, only to be devastated as they disappeared before he too sucumbed. A totally avoidable disaster was complete.”

The department has previously offer sympathy and condolences but never said “sorry” – and Andrew Metcalfe says the department will not allow what occurred to be forgotten. “We will in consultation with our staff continue to honour and remember those who died, Ted Harry, Wilfred Baira, Valerie Saub, Flora Enosa and Athena Enosa. Thank-you.”

Still no personal apology

Lawyer Laura Neil represents two families of the victims suing the department for compensation. She says the apology is a good sign, but she says the department has not contacted her clients to say sorry.

“We’re only talking about five families, we’re not talking about thousands of people, so I wouldn’t have thought it would take much effort for the phone to be picked up and a phone call made to the people involved.”

Ms Neil adds that saying sorry will not have any impact on the compensation claims.

“I don’t think it has any implication as such, I think it’s a nice gesture, but it is certainly not something we would construe as an admission of liability or anything of that nature.”

An investigation by the federal workplace regulator into the department and the former official Mr Gary Chaston will soon be completed.

The families of the deceased were disappointed earlier this year when the coroner recommended disciplinary action against Mr Chaston, but he resigned before any could be taken. Comcare has the ability to prosecute both.

‘Never again’

Metcalfe has also vowed a similar tragedy would not happen again.

“The department has since made changes and improvements to its procedures to ensure such a tragedy never happens again, and that the welfare of our staff will always be paramount in our objectives.”

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Federer crashes out of Wimbledon

Wimbledon legend Roger Federer crashed out of the tournament in a shock quarter-final defeat, opening up the path to the title for Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray.

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The Swiss defending champion, who had been gunning for a record-equalling seventh Wimbledon singles crown, was beaten 6-4 3-6 6-1 6-4 by Czech 12th seed Tomas Berdych on centre court, where Federer has ruled the roost for the best part of a decade.

Top seed Federer has not missed out on a Wimbledon final since 2002.

His downfall means Djokovic, Nadal and Murray will all feel their chances of claiming the crown have been greatly improved after they moved into the semi-finals, while big-serving Berdych also has a shot at glory.

World No.1 Nadal booked his semi-final place by coming from behind to beat Swedish sixth seed Robin Soderling 3-6 6-3 7-6 (7-4) 6-1.

Serbian third seed Djokovic, who has reached the semi-finals here just once before, beat Taiwan’s Lu Yen-Hsun 6-3 6-2 6-2.

And British fourth seed Murray beat French 10th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-7 (5-7) 7-6 (7-5) 6-2 6-2 to also reach the Wimbledon semis for a second time.

The home favourite now faces 2008 Wimbledon champion Nadal in Friday’s semi-finals, while Djokovic takes on Berdych. “It was brutal for me,” Federer said.

“Every time he had a chance, he took it… When I did have chances, I played poorly.

It was just a frustrating match the way it all went. “I’m definitely struggling at the moment. “It’s not something I’m used to doing, losing in the quarter-finals, because it’s not something I’ve done in the last six years.” Federer said he was playing with a painful back and right leg.

“It’s just uncomfortable. When you can’t play freely, that’s the kind of performance you get,” he said. Federer, 28, will now drop down to world No.3 for the first time since November 2003.

Nadal recovered from losing the first set to Soderling to win their quarter-final, using a dispute with the umpire over a line call to fire himself up and turn the match around. In a re-run of the French Open final earlier this month, Nadal triumphed once again.

“I am feeling great. For me, another time in the semi-finals of this tournament is a dream,” the second seed said.

“I always try my best and I think I am playing better and better every day. In my opinion there is no one favourite right now in the tournament.”

Murray’s morale was at a low ebb coming into Wimbledon after he failed to get past the quarter-finals of any tournament since January, but the Scot has rediscovered his best form here.

He dismissed Tsonga in style, with some clever play at the net, to reach the last four for a second straight year.

With Federer out, Murray must be starting to fancy his chances of becoming Britain’s first Wimbledon men’s singles champion since Fred Perry in 1936. “It was a really tough first couple of sets.

He was going for huge shots and I was doing a lot of defending,” Murray said.

“This was a good win and I will have to play well again in the semi-finals. “It will be a great match.

It’s always fun playing against Rafa. I look forward to it.” Taiwan’s Lu had put out three-times beaten finalist Andy Roddick to get through to the last eight — the best-ever grand slam performance by a Taiwanese player — but was no match for the in-form Djokovic.

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Apple puts ‘touch’ of magic into mouse

The Magic Mouse lets people use finger gestures instead of buttons, wheels, or balls to navigate computer screens.

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“Apple’s Multi-Touch technology allows us to offer an easy to use mouse in a simple and elegant design,” said senior vice president of worldwide product marketing Philip Schiller.

“Apple is the Multi-Touch leader, pioneering the use of this innovative technology in iPhone, iPod Touch and Mac notebook trackpads.”

Magic Mouse is priced at $US69, but the device will be included with newly-announced iMac computers featuring 21.5-inch and 27-inch screens.

Laptop computers upgraded

Prices for new iMac models range from $US1,199 to $US1,999, depending on features such as memory, hard drive, and screen size.

Apple also unveiled an updated MacBook laptop with enhanced display, battery and trackpad features and a price tag of $US999.

Upgrades were also made to the Mac mini, which Apple billed as the world’s most energy efficient desktop computer.

The news came a day after Apple reported unprecedented quarterly net profit of $US1.67 billion on record sales of iPhones and Macintosh computers.

Record sales of iPhones

Apple recorded $US9.87 billion in revenue during the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, which ended September 26, compared with $US7.9 billion in revenue in the same period last year.

Apple stock price rallied Tuesday, topping $US198.

“We are thrilled to have sold more Macs and iPhones than in any previous quarter,” said Apple chief executive Steve Jobs.

“We’ve got a very strong lineup for the holiday season and some really great new products in the pipeline for 2010.”

Rumors of Apple gadgets being readied for market include an “iTablet” computing device akin to a magazine-sized iPhone that could be used for reading digitized books as well as watching videos or surfing the Internet.

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Injured Safina loses tennis top spot

Safina, 23, quit her opening match against Jelena Jankovic after suffering a lower back injury.

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The emotional pullout came at just 1-1 in the first set and after only 13 minutes on court.

“My body just gave up. I did everything possible to play. I went to have a cortisone injection, but I couldn’t handle the pain anymore,” said Safina, who had gone back to the top of the rankings on Monday, but only with a 155-point lead on Williams.

The American won her opening match in the $US4.55 million event on Tuesday against Svetlana Kuznetsova, to earn 160 points, and was due to face sister Venus later on Wednesday.

Organisers said Safina’s compatriot Vera Zvonareva, the 2008 runner-up, would take her place in the competition.

Safina said she had started feeling the pain on her way to her third title of 2009 in Portoroz in July, but had been determined to keep playing to stay on course for the world number spot at the end of the year.

Safina may skip Melbourne

“I’ve been playing on the pain, I have been on anti-inflammatories, on everything,” said Safina.

“I was advised to take a break after the US Open. But I thought that I was chasing this No. 1 place, I was fighting with my body.

“God knows, maybe I should have stopped after the US Open. But for two tournaments – in Beijing and Tokyo – it didn’t bother me that much. So I was still hoping.”

Safina, whose earlier 25-week reign as world number one ranking had come under fire due to the glaring absence of a major title on her CV, said she was confident that surgery wouldn’t be required.

“It’s the time, then it’s the rehabilitation. I have to work on my muscles, on my core stability. As I’m tall, I need to be strong, so I can hold myself. This is going to be a very long procedure.”

Safina added that she will also have to make a decision on whether or not to skip the 2010 Australian Open in order to complete her recovery.

Safina’s retirement leaves the White Group in the eight-player WTA Championships evenly-poised with Jankovic, Caroline Wozniacki and Victoria Azarenka all with one win with the top two making the semi-finals.

Azarenka self-destructs

The Maroon Group in the tournament is made up of the Williams sisters, Kuznetsova and Elena Dementieva.

Earlier Danish teenager Wozniacki marked her debut by saving a match point in a 1-6, 6-4, 7-5 win over Azarenka, who spectacularly pressed the self-destruct button.

US Open runner-up Wozniacki was overwhelmed in the first set by her close friend.

But the world number four dug deep in the second set, surviving a 22-minute fifth game, as well as a 10-minute heat rule break to take the tie into the decider.

The untidy third set, with both players wilting in the crushing 33-degree night-time heat and high humidity of the Gulf, saw nine breaks of serve.

Wozniacki trailed 3-5 before Azarenka’s game fell to pieces.

The Belarusian wasted a match point in the ninth game and was suddenly 6-5 down after being penalised a point for a bad-tempered, court-side bout of racquet-smashing.

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UAE’s green city completion delayed

The completion date for Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City, set to be the first in the world powered solely by renewable energy, has been pushed back until between 2020 and 2025, Masdar said on Sunday.

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Phase one of the renewable energy enclave, including the headquarters of the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology campus, is now slated for completion in 2015, a statement said.

The renewable energy company Masdar — “source” in Arabic — had previously said the city, which was begun in early 2008, was “due to be completed by 2016.”

“We’re building (on) take-up of our tenants, and… based on what’s happened in the market, the acquisition of tenants has slowed down a little,” Masdar City director Alan Frost told AFP when asked about the delay.

He also said that building over a longer period allows new technologies to be tested and incorporated.

Frost said the estimated cost of Masdar City was now 10 to 15 percent lower than previously, putting it between 18.7 and 19.8 billion dollars, instead of 22 billion dollars.

He said that driverless electric “Personal Rapid Transit” vehicles are now being tested, and will transport people from a parking area to Masdar Institute when testing is complete later this month or in early to mid November.

The company is looking into electric buses and possibly electric taxis for transport in later phases of the city’s development, Frost added.

Masdar City will still run on renewable energy, but not all of this power will be generated on site, the statement said.

The city “will no longer rely solely on on-site clean energy sources. Instead, the purchase of renewable energy from off-site locations may also be utilised as energy demands increase over the project’s lifetime,” it said.

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BAE bribery suit may be taken to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A pension fund may ask the Supreme Court to let it sue BAE Systems Plc <baes.

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l> in the United States over allegations that the company paid more than $2 billion in bribes to win a record Saudi arms deal, the fund’s lead attorney said on Friday.

A U.S. appeals court ruled this week against the fund for employees of the city of Harper Woods, Michigan. The court said English law, not U.S. law, governed the shareholder lawsuit over alleged bribes to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan and others.

The appeals court, which upheld a lower court’s finding, left the fund to pursue its case in Britain.

Patrick Coughlin, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, said the fund had no plans to take its case to England.

Instead, he said it may appeal to the high court against the dismissal of the case on Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“Will consider” going to the Supreme Court, Coughlin, of Coughlin, Stoia, Geller, Rudman, Robbins LLP, said in a terse email reply to Reuters. “No current plans to litigate in England.”

He did not respond to questions about why he did not plan to take the case to England. The original suit was brought in September 2007.

The pension fund has charged that current and former directors and executives of BAE, Britain’s No. 1 arms maker, breached their fiduciary duties and wasted corporate assets by allegedly allowing illegal bribes and kickbacks in the 1980s arm deal known as al-Yamamah, or “the Dove.”

BAE has denied that wrongful payments were made to secure the deal in which Tornado fighter jets, Hawker trainer aircraft and other military hardware were sold to Saudi Arabia in exchange for oil starting in 1985. The value of the government-to-government barter has been estimated at up to $80 billion, Britain’s costliest arms deal.

BAE welcomed the U.S. appeals court ruling, said Lindsay Walls, a company spokeswoman in London.

Lawyers for Bandar, a former ambassador to the United States, have denied any wrongdoing on his part.

The plaintiffs had argued the United States should have jurisdiction because more than $2 billion in alleged bribes went to Bandar through an account at Riggs Bank, a defunct Washington D.C. financial institution.

BAE defendants countered that nearly all of them reside outside the United States, and none in Washington D.C.

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office in December 2006 dropped an inquiry into the al-Yamamah deal. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said pursuing the matter threatened national security and ties with Saudi Arabia, which he called crucial for counter-terrorism efforts and Middle East peace.

In June 2007, BAE said the U.S. Justice Department had opened its own investigation of BAE’s compliance with anti-bribery laws, including dealings with Saudi Arabia. The department did not respond to a request for comment on its investigation.

(Reporting by Jim Wolf; Editing by David Gregorio)

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A month on, people still flee homes

Pakistani authorities were Sunday trying to protect another town from floodwaters in southern Sindh province, as the nation continues to grapple with its worst natural disaster in living memory.

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A month after monsoons caused devastating floods throughout the country, submerging an area the size of England, eight million people remain dependent on handouts for their survival, which many say are too slow coming.

Surging floodwaters continue to threaten towns in southern Sindh, where 19 of its 23 districts have been deluged and more than one million people displaced.

Authorities are trying to protect Johi, a town threatened by ravaging floodwaters, the district’s administration chief Iqbal Memon told AFP.

The town, 315 kilometres north of Karachi, has a population of 60,000 and officials fear that floodwaters will breach surrounding embankments unless they are quickly strengthened.

“The floodwaters are fast heading towards Johi town after inundating most parts of Khairpur Nathan Shah town and Mehar town and several surrounding villages in Dadu district,” Memon said.

“We are right now employing all available means to strengthen the protective embankments around Johi, but the threat still remains.”

Population flees

About 70 per cent of the town’s population had already fled to safer areas, Memon said.

He estimated that 90 per cent of the people of Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages, which had a joint population of about 300,000, had fled to nearby towns spared by floods.

“However, a few thousand people who remain stranded in Khairpur Nathan Shah, Mehar town and surrounding villages are being evacuated to safety by naval boats and helicopters,” he said.

Usman Qureshi, a resident of a small village near Khairpur Nathan Shah, said he had been stranded with at least 10 other villagers since Saturday after water inundated the area.

“We immediately need help and food,” he told AFP by mobile phone after taking shelter at the lone two-storey building in the village.

“We beg you to please contact rescuers and ask them to evacuate us.”

Meanwhile, troops rescued 300 people from the flooded Jati town and 47 from Khairpur Nathan Shah to safer places, the military said in a statement.

Anger at government, slow pace of aid

While the international community has donated $US700 million ($A769 million), domestic anger has been mounting against the widely unpopular civilian government, which has come under fire for its handling of the crisis.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Saturday told the lower house of the federal parliament that relief efforts would be extended to six months.

Gilani estimated that the early recovery phase would be completed by December 30, while damage and need assessment by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank would be completed by September 30.

The World Bank has raised flood aid to Pakistan to $US1 billion ($A1.1 billion), while the International Monetary Fund has approved $US450 million ($A494.42 million) in emergency financing to help the nation cope.

The Organisation of the Islamic Conference on Thursday appealed to Muslims everywhere to direct their zakat tithes – donations required under Islam – to relief for Pakistan, rather than leave Pakistanis “alone to their fate”.

However, the United Nations has warned that the slow pace of aid pledges could impede relief operations and says Pakistan faces a triple threat to food supplies with seeds, crops and incomes hit.

The floods have ruined 3.6 million hectares of rich farmland, and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said farmers urgently needed seeds to plant for next year’s crops.

Gilani warned on Wednesday that the country faced inflation of up to 20 per cent and slower growth because of the devastating floods, which wiped out crops and killed 1760 people.

Disaster officials have said that number of deaths will likely rise “significantly” when the missing are accounted for.