UN urges release of billions for world food crisis

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The United Nations urged donors Monday to release quickly billions of dollars in aid pledged at a food crisis summit last year after riots in developing countries over soaring prices.

Jacques Diouf, director of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and other delegates to an international meeting on food security warned that the global economic crisis must not cause countries to neglect the nearly billion people in the world that the U.N. says do not get enough to eat.

The forum, organized by Spain and the United Nations, was designed to be a follow up to a 180-nation summit in Rome in June.

Diouf said Monday that during and after that meeting, countries and international organizations pledged $22 billion in development aid to alleviate hunger.

He did not say who pledged what or accuse any country of reneging, but simply called for swift release of the money.

"The commitments made must lead to new resources very fast," Diouf said.

Spain has promised $500 million in agricultural and food aid over the next four years and so far disbursed about half of that, Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said.

The soaring prices for staples like rice that triggered riots in the developing world last year have come down somewhat, but they remain high compared to levels prior to the crisis.

The FAO's food price index in December was 28 percent above its 2005 level and 61 percent higher than in 2000, according to figures released at the conference.

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