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U.S. Relief Package to More Than Double

U.S. Relief Package to More Than Double

Posted - Dec. 28, 2004 at 10:28 a.m.



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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Agency for International Development prepared Tuesday to add $20 million to an initial $15 million contribution for Asian earthquake relief as Secretary of State Colin Powell bristled at a United Nations official's suggestion that the United States has been "stingy."

A senior U.S. official told The Associated Press the increased aid figure was bound to be pushed even higher as assessments of the damage from the biggest earthquake in 40 years are received.

The Pentagon is preparing a supplemental relief operation and pre-stocked supplies of shelter, food and water bags are on their way to Indonesia from Dubai, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Powell, irritated by the U.N. official's criticism, toured morning television talk shows to say the Bush administration will follow up its contributions with large additional sums.

"The United States has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world," Powell said when asked about the comments Monday by Jan Egeland, the U.N. humanitarian aid chief.

Initially, the U.S. government pledged $15 million and dispatched disaster specialists to help the Asian nations devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunamis that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

On Monday, President Bush sent letters of condolence and Powell called the disaster an "international tragedy" as he laid out the initial American aid efforts.

Appearing Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," the secretary said that at least 11 Americans have died in the disaster and hundreds remain unaccounted for.

Powell chafed at statements that Egeland made at a Monday news conference, at which the humanitarian aid chief exhorted "rich" nations to do more.

"We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries," Egeland said. "And it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really ... Even Christmas time should remind many Western countries at least how rich we have become."

Asked about this on ABC, Powell said, "We will do more. I wish that comment hadn't been made."

"We'll make an assessment as the days go by, to see what more is needed of us," he said. "It will take us awhile to make a careful assessment of what is needed ... to see what the specific needs are and then we will respond to those needs."

Egeland said on Tuesday, however, that his remarks had been "misintrepreted."

"It has nothing to do with any particular country or any particular disaster," he told reporters.

In an interview on NBC"s "Today" show Tuesday, Powell said that "clearly, the United States will be a major contributor to this international effort. And, yes, it will run into the billions of dollars."

From his ranch in Crawford, Texas on Monday, Bush had sent letters of condolence to the leaders of the seven countries wracked by the disaster.

"This is a terrible tragedy," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. "There is a significant loss of life. And our thoughts and prayers are with all those who are suffering."

Powell made condolence telephone calls and offered American assistance to the foreign ministers of Thailand, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

American ambassadors released $100,000 each to India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka, and Powell said $4 million would be given to the Red Cross.

U.S. government specialists in disaster relief were sent to Thailand and Indonesia, and others will be spread out through the region. Supplies of shelter, food and water cans kept in reserve in the Philippines and in Dubai will be distributed, according to Ed Fox, assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Millions of people who were displaced will need shelter, food and clothing, Fox added. The $15 million U.S. contribution was an initial one, he said, issued while surveys were conducted.

The Australian government pledged $7.6 million in immediate aid.

A spokesman at U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii said Monday that in addition to three Navy P-3 Orion surveillance planes sent to Thailand, the military also is loading five or six Air Force C-130 cargo planes with tents, clothing, food and other humanitarian goods for delivery to Thailand.

Pacific Command also is assembling small assessment teams that will be dispatched to three countries in the region to assess how U.S. military resources can best be applied in those countries.

Pacific Command spokesman Lt. Col. William Bigelow said he was not authorized to identify the three countries, but other government officials said they were Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand.

And James D. Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank, said bank teams were discussing potential assistance with the governments of the countries that suffered losses.

On Sunday, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Rodrigo de Rato, said the Fund "stands ready to do its part to assist these nations with appropriate support in their time of need."

The U.S. Navy said it sent three P-3 surveillance aircraft from Kadena air base on the Japanese island of Okinawa to Utaphao, Thailand, to conduct survey operations, and possibly aid in search-and-rescue efforts.

The Navy said it had no reports of damage to any of its ships or bases in the region.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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