Thursday, September 15, 2005

NEW YORK — The official who oversees U.S. foreign aid is warning foreign diplomats that budgets may be reduced next year to offset the cost of relief after Hurricane Katrina.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Andrew Natsios said yesterday he is trying to lower the expectations of governments, some of which have been expecting increases in their assistance.

“I am telling diplomats to reduce their expectations after Katrina,” he told a small group of reporters yesterday.

“You want realistic expectations, especially in the immediate future,” Mr. Natsios said, adding that cuts may not be necessary.

He said concerns have been raised by many foreign delegations on the sidelines of the United Nations 60th anniversary summit, which is focusing on development in the world’s poorest countries.

Mr. Natsios said that over the last decade the link between foreign assistance and security had become widely accepted, even by many conservative lawmakers.

USAID, which operates out of the State Department, spent $14 billion in 2004, a figure that includes supplemental appropriations for Afghanistan, Iraq and HIV/AIDS programs.

By comparison, Mr. Natsios said, the agency’s budget was $7 billion in 2001.

“The national security argument for foreign aid will protect us,” he said. “Even skeptics are saying don’t touch it.”

He repeated the Bush administration’s position that poverty does not cause terrorism — an argument that many foreign nations don’t accept — but said that failed states are providing safe havens and operating bases.

Noting that al Qaeda was based in Somalia, Sudan and then Afghanistan, Mr. Natsios said “failed states are not in the interest of the United States.”

Few are doubting the severity and scope of the damage inflicted two weeks ago by the hurricane.

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