Tuesday, September 6, 2005

The United States has accepted help from about 40 countries for the victims of Hurricane Katrina — fewer than half of those that offered — including high-speed water pumps, food, cruise ships and more than $400 million in cash, U.S. officials said yesterday.

Although no offer has been rejected officially, proposals from Cuba and other countries to send doctors or nurses have not been accepted because there is enough U.S. medical personnel to deal with the crisis for now, the State Department said.

“There’s been a robust response from the American medical community in terms of medical supplies, in terms of medical professionals, doctors, nurses, as well as public health officials,” spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

A senior State Department official added: “We have the people we need right now, and we have more in the pipeline.”

A Belgian offer to send medical teams to assist the American Red Cross was accepted, but they include only logistical personnel, U.S. officials said.

The State Department sent a cable to U.S. embassies around the world over the weekend with what one diplomat in Europe described as a “generic list” of needs that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had identified as top priorities.

The list did not include medical professionals, diplomats in Washington and overseas said.

“The cable said that interested governments should let us know what from the list they can provide,” the U.S. diplomat in Europe said.

Once those governments respond, Washington will decide what to take from each of them, he said.

He also noted that some foreign officials are asking why it took Washington so long to compile the list, but the Bush administration said the enormity of the crisis required time and care for a comprehensive list to be produced.

“Over 90 countries and organizations around the world have made offers of assistance to the United States and the American people in our time of need,” Mr. McCormack said.

“As needs are identified, certainly if they can be filled from the international offers of assistance, that is something that we have and will go back to foreign countries to try to meet,” he said.

He noted that Germany and the Netherlands are sending high-speed pumps, and that Greek cruise ships are on their way to the Gulf of Mexico region.

“There is a process of matching needs with the expertise and the donations that have been made. This is going to be an ongoing process over a period of time,” Mr. McCormack said.

The largest cash contributions so far, $100 million each, have come from three Persian Gulf countries — Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. The latter is also shipping $400 million worth of oil.

The United States has accepted help even from poor countries like Afghanistan that are recipients of substantial amounts of U.S. aid.

“What we do is, we accept these offers in the spirit in which they are given,” Mr. McCormack said.

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