Allies support US in its hour of need

GULF states have rallied round to lend support to a beleaguered America as the nation battles to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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By  Stuart Qualtrough Published  September 11, 2005

Kuwait has offered half a billion dollars in aid and Qatar has donated US$100 million to victims of the natural disaster which may have claimed up to 10,000 lives. The announcements of aid followed the US government’s “woeful” reaction to the storm and subsequent flooding that trapped and killed thousands across a huge area surrounding New Orleans. Oil-rich Kuwait is a staunch ally of the United States, which in 1991 prompted an international coalition to liberate the emirate from seven months of Iraqi occupation led by Saddam Hussein. At any one time, there are 15,000 US troops stationed in Kuwait, which is also a transit point for coalition forces moving in and out of Iraq. Kuwait’s energy minister, Sheikh Ahmad Fahd Al Sabh said the US$500 million assistance would come in the form of “oil products needed by the afflicted states”. He added: “We, Kuwaitis, feel it is our duty to stand by our friends to alleviate this humanitarian tragedy and express our gratitude for the support extended to us by Washington.” Qatar, another close US ally which hosted the forward command headquarters that ran the Iraq war, said it would donate US$100 million to victims. But the offers of aid will do little to relieve the pressure on president Bush. Observers believe the pictures beamed around the world of bloated, bobbing corpses in the flood water will harm the president’s already-tarnished reputation. Following a meeting with his cabinet last week, Bush said: “I intend to lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong. It’s very important for us to understand the relationship between the federal government, the state government and the local government when it comes to a major catastrophe.” Bush’s statement came as leading members of Congress also said they would begin hearings on what they called the “woeful” effort to aid those trapped by the storm and the flooding. Much of the focus is likely to be on whether the state government sought federal help quickly enough, or put up obstacles preventing that help from being delivered. Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, said Bush would seek an additional US$40 billion to US$50 billion for the relief effort, following the US$10.5 billion approved by Congress on Friday. Reid suggested the costs for reconstruction could exceed US$150 billion. The desperate picture seemed to be improving seven days after the destructive storm crash through the region. Several of the levees breached in the storm were repaired, and engineers began pumping water out of the flooded city. Such offers of aid and assistance are usually associated with some of the unluckiest places in the world. This time, by contrast, they were intended for the richest country on earth. “The US has been enormously grateful for the outpouring of support, both emotional and concrete,” said Victoria Nuland, US ambassador to NATO. “We have had specific offers from almost every ally ... This once again proves the effectiveness and resilience of this alliance and its value for the American people and their allies.” Germany has sent 40,000 ready-to-eat meals and is sending another 30,000. The UK is in the process of sending half a million military ration packs, together with inflatable boats and marine engineers. France has requisitioned 300 tents in the Antilles, 980 field beds, jerry cans and soap, 60 generators, three water purification plants, and 30 pumps. The effort has even been joined by tiny countries such as Luxembourg, which plans to send 2000 blankets and 1000 beds, and relatively poor ones such as Romania, which is sending two teams of medical experts. Beyond Europe, Indonesia, which the US aided after the Asian tsunami, is promising blankets and doctors, while Singapore has sent four Chinook helicopters to transport evacuees and supplies. The scramble to get aid to where it is most needed has sometimes seemed a little chaotic. NATO’s Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Co-ordination Centre, based in Brussels, the European Commission and the British presidency of the EU have all played roles in co-ordinating the relief. But so far, all the aid has come from individual states on the basis of the requirements set out by the US list, although Nato is contemplating providing further assistance in its own right. EU member states have also been discussing drawing up a second list of other items which could be made available to the US. In Russia, Nikolai Spassky, the deputy secretary of president Vladimir Putin’s Security Council, told the Interfax News Agency that the chaos left by Katrina “was an extremely unpleasant signal to terrorists”, who could see how to bring misery to thousands of people.

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