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Zardari curtails Russia visit to few hours

world Updated: Aug 13, 2010 15:16 IST

Stung by criticism of his decision to travel to Europe at a time when Pakistan is grappling with the worst floods in its history, President Asif Ali Zardari has decided to curtail an upcoming visit to Russia to only a few hours.

Zardari's original schedule was to visit Russia two days to participate in a quadrilateral summit of heads of state of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Russia convened by the Russian government.

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar on Friday said Zardari had curtailed his visit in view of the devastating floods in the country.

The summit on regional security at Sochi in Russia was finalised several weeks ago.

In view of the natural disaster, Zardari has cut his visit short to just a few hours to only attend the summit on August 18, Babar said.

The President will not participate in the lunch hosted in honour of the heads of state and will return Pakistan the same day, he said.

Zardari was criticised by opposition political parties and the media for travelling to Britain and France at a time when millions of people have been affected by unprecedented floods.

The media particularly played Zardari's visit to his family's country home in France to meet his ailing father.

The President has defended his decision to go ahead with his visit to Europe, saying it helped to mobilise aid for victims of the floods.