- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

In an accelerating drive, more than 50 countries have pledged assistance in connection with the Hurricane Katrina disaster.

The offers blur political lines. Cuba and Venezuela, for instance, have offered to help despite differences with Washington. Oil giant Saudi Arabia and tiny countries such as Dominica are among the nations making pledges.

Australia announced a donation of $8 million to the American Red Cross. “The United States is so often at the forefront of international aid efforts to help less-fortunate nations,” Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said. “So it is only fitting that Australia should contribute to the daunting task of helping the thousands of American citizens whose lives have been thrown into turmoil by this unprecedented disaster.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said State Department officials are evaluating offers of hurricane relief from the international community.

“The State Department is coordinating closely with the Department of Homeland Security to match these offers of support with the needs on the ground,” Miss Rice said.

She said the United States had turned down no offer of assistance from overseas, but is being deliberate about how it accepts offers.

France, “determined to show its solidarity with the United States,” offered a range of aircraft and two ships, with helicopters and planes capable of airlifting tons of supplies, a disaster unit with 20 soldiers, a civil defense detachment of 35 persons and an airborne emergency unit, the French Embassy said.

The French city of Orleans is rallying to help its American namesake.

The city plans to donate money raised from ticket sales at local sports matches to help hurricane victims in New Orleans, city officials said. Orleans and its university also have offered to take in 50 students from the University of New Orleans for the school year.

Orleans, 75 miles south of Paris, is best known as the city saved by Joan of Arc. In 1429, she and her troops freed the city from a siege by the English. New Orleans was founded in 1718 by French settlers and named after the Duke of Orleans, who was regent of France at the time.

Japan said it would contribute $200,000 to the American Red Cross for its relief operations. Upon request, Japan is prepared to provide up to $300,000 worth of tents, blankets, power generators, portable water tanks and other equipment, the Japanese Embassy said.

By yesterday, offers had been received from Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belgium, Britain, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jamaica, Jordan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

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