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U.S. Nearly Triples Aid Money For Tsunami Efforts to $950M

By Elizabeth Becker

The New York Times -- WASHINGTON

President Bush pledged Wednesday almost to triple the United States’ contribution for countries devastated by the tsunami, raising the figure to $950 million.

The additional $600 million puts the United States, which was criticized initially as reacting slowly to the disaster, ahead of Australia, which has pledged $750 million, and Germany, which has pledged $680 million, among the top donors.

The administration will include the new aid in the $81 billion supplemental bill that it is expected to submit to Congress next week to cover the costs of fighting in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Since the tsunami disaster seven weeks ago, nearly $6 billion in aid has been pledged from public and private sources, according to the United Nations. The United States’ pledge is now the largest for a single disaster in the country’s history, according to Andrew S. Natsios, the administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Already the United States has spent $101 million on aid and another $101 million for military assistance.

In his announcement, the president praised the U.S. military and the Agency for International Development for their life-saving efforts in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka and the other affected countries. And he said the money would ensure the success was not squandered.

“We will use these resources to provide assistance and to work with the affected nations on rebuilding vital infrastructure that re-energizes economies and strengthens societies,” Bush said in a statement.

The new spending request includes millions to replenish money already used for the relief efforts, easing some lawmakers’ concerns that the administration would deplete funds originally intended to help other desperate nations.

More than half of the $600 million in the new request will be spent on construction projects like roads, schools and water distribution systems, a reflection of the changing nature of the work from emergency relief efforts to longer-term rehabilitation.