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Global Aid for Tsunami Victims Stepped Up as Hurdles Develop

By Scott Shane

The New York Times -- JAKARTA, Indonesia

Fresh infusions of aid on Tuesday gave yet more push to the global relief effort for Asia as it confronted monsoon rains, logistical breakdowns and the urgent need for everything from earth-moving equipment to trucks in the struggle to reach the most remote survivors.

Jan Egeland, the U.N. emergency coordinator, acknowledged the many obstacles but called the global response “phenomenal” on a day when Germany committed $669 million before a meeting here on Thursday of donor nations who will discuss how to coordinate more than $2 billion pledges.

With television broadcasts showing American servicemen delivering aid to victims of the last week’s tsunami, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell candidly acknowledged the hope that the U.S. military help and its $350 million contribution might improve America’s image in the Islamic world. Indonesia, home of two-thirds of the estimated 150,000 people who have died, is the world’s largest Muslim nation.

“We’d be doing it regardless of religion,” Powell said here on the second day of his tour through the region with Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida. “But I think it does give the Muslim world and the rest of the world an opportunity to see American generosity, American values in action.”

“America is not an anti-Islam, anti-Muslim nation,” Powell added in his remarks to reporters alongside the Indonesian prime minister, Hassan Wirojuda. “America is a diverse society where we respect all religions. And I hope that as a result of our efforts, as a result of our helicopter pilots being seen by the citizens of Indonesia helping them, that value system of ours will be reinforced.”

For his part, Wirojuda, a Harvard Law School graduate, went out of his way to praise the performance of the U.S. military in the aid effort. “We particularly appreciate the crucial role that the U.S. armed forces play in providing helicopters for relief assistance for victims and survivors at the remote and isolated areas,” he said.