US increases aid to $350 million

The United States has pledged $350 million to help tsunami victims, a tenfold increase over its first wave of aid, President George Bush said on Friday.

    Annan (L) urged Powell and other leaders to do more for the crisis

    Bush said he would also be sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to areas ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami to assess what more the US needs to do. The president's brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, will travel with him.


    The newly announced aid came after some critics claimed that the initial US contribution of $35 million was meagre considering the vast wealth of the nation.


    France has promised $57 million, Britain has pledged $95 million, Sweden is sending $75.5 million and Spain is offering $68 million, although that pledge is partly in loans.


    Kuwait has donated $2 million in supplies while Qatar and Saudi Arabia each donated $10 million. The United Arab Emirates also donated $2 million.


    Media controversy



    increase in funding for victims of the Asian quake and consequent tsunami came

    after The New York Times published an editorial criticising the Bush

    administration for not reacting quickly enough to the crisis. 


    Bush is sending his brother Jeb
    (R) to assess damage in Asia

    The Times chided Bush for waiting until Wednesday to express his sympathy to leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia for Sunday's disaster that has left an estimated 120,000 people dead and millions homeless.


    However, when Bush announced the increase in US aid to $35 million on Wednesday, he indicated it was "only the beginning".


    The daily added that it hoped Powell was embarrassed to announce "the initial measly aid offer" of $15 million.


    "That's less than half of what Republicans plan to spend on the Bush inaugural festivities," in January, it said.


    Communities chip in


    Meanwhile, communities throughout the US continued to provide financial and material assistance.


    Mormons and Muslims joined forces to send 64 tonnes of medical supplies, hygiene kits, clothing and shoes to Indonesia for tsunami disaster victims, the groups said on Friday.


    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints provided the aid and Islamic Relief Worldwide paid the freight, Mormon spokesman Dale Bills said.


    A chartered MD-11 cargo plane was loaded in Salt Lake City for a New Year's Day flight to Medan on the island of Sumatra in northern Indonesia, Bills said.


    Distribution in the disaster area will be directed by both organisations.


    The two groups have worked jointly since 2003 to provide aid to Iraq, to Bangladesh flood victims and Sudanese victims of famine.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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