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Powell Pledges Continued Support to Asia

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 4, 2005; 1:30 AM

JAKARTA, Indonesia, Jan. 4 -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Tuesday an outpouring of U.S. aid for tsunami-stricken countries could begin to reverse the rise of anti-Americanism in the region by demonstrating that "America is not an anti-Islamic, anti-Muslim nation."

Powell, who arrived here after visiting the badly damaged Thai resort island of Phuket, stressed that the humanitarian response was not prompted by geopolitical concerns, or the fact that many victims were Muslim. But he expressed the hope that scenes of U.S. helicopter pilots delivering aid, coupled with a demonstration of "American generosity" through a range of other humanitarian activities, would reduce the lure of terrorism.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stands near photos of missing people at a tsunami relief center on the Thai resort island of Phuket. (Adrees Latif - Reuters)

_____Powell in Asia_____
Video: Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the outpouring of American aid and humanitarian help in the region devastated by the tsunami may also help Muslim nations see the United States in a better light.
_____From Jakarta_____
Audio: The Post's Glenn Kessler reports on the U.S. delegation visiting tsunami-ravaged countries.

"It dries up those pools of dissatisfaction which might give rise to terrorist activities," Powell said after meeting with senior Indonesian officials.

"When people believe there is a future in their country," Powell said, "in such circumstances we think it is less likely that terrorism will find fertile ground. That works not only in our national security interest but the national security interest of the countries involved."

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, lost at least 94,000 people when the tsunami struck on Dec. 26, and U.N. officials warned Monday that tens of thousands of people in northern Sumatra have not yet received help.

Powell said he would look into a request by Indonesian officials to lift an embargo on U.S. sales of military equipment. The embargo was imposed after an Indonesian crackdown in East Timor in 1999.

Indonesian officials say the lack of new military equipment is hampering their efforts to deliver aid. In 2003, the Indonesian military attacked villages in Sumatra's Aceh province -- where the tsunami struck -- using U.S.-manufactured equipment such as OV-10 Bronco counterinsurgency planes and C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.

U.S. officials also are counting on images of Powell, accompanied at every site by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), to help erase any concerns about the level of the U.S. response. Powell said $40 million has been delivered in the past week out of $350 million committed thus far.

At his earlier stop in Phuket, Powell began his tour of tsunami-stricken countries with a series of meetings with government officials, relief workers and forensic experts. He stressed repeatedly that the United States is eager to provide financial and other assistance.

"The United States has made a significant financial contribution, but we have done much more than that," Powell said at a news conference, as a couple hundred Thai relief workers and survivors strained to hear him under the sweltering sun.

"I think you will see the generosity of the American people as they make their contributions to assist all of our friends in the region," Powell said, referring to the new relief drive headed by former presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.

Already, 12,000 U.S. military personnel are on ships involved in the relief effort, and Powell suggested more would be forthcoming.

"I think we are bringing more military assets into the region," Powell said. "I think there are large quantities of food on the way, fresh water on the way, medical supplies on the way."

Gov. Bush, like Powell coatless and tieless in the heat, echoed Powell's words of encouragement.

"We will be shoulder to shoulder with the leaders of the region and the people of the region to provide support, not only for the relief but for the recovery on the long-term basis," said Bush, one of the president's brothers.

At a news conference in Bangkok, the governor related the story of receiving an e-mail from someone whose granddaughter raised $138 to aid people affected by the tsunami through a cookie sale outside a church.

"Literally thousands of other acts of kindness like that are taking place," he said.

Before leaving Bangkok, Powell toured a pair of aircraft hangars in which donations of dried noodles, clothing, water, coffins and other items collected from Thai citizens were stacked haphazardly.

On the way to Phuket, Powell's Boeing 757 jet made a slow and low approach so he could view some of the shattered buildings and washed-out beaches. His motorcade then raced to the provincial government center, the command center for the relief operation, where scores of xeroxed photos of missing tourists and Thais were posted.

There, Powell greeted consular officials from a number of nations trying to assist survivors and spoke to several U.S. officials who happened to be on the scene when the waves struck. He also met with U.S. forensic specialists who are trying to identify bodies through DNA matches. He did not meet with any survivors.

Powell and Gov. Bush on Wednesday will make an aerial tour of Aceh. On Thursday, Powell will attend a summit in Jakarta on the disaster. But Bush will head home, possibly on a government jet, so he can attend a dinner that night celebrating his parents' 60th wedding anniversary, a spokesman for the governor said.

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