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World Leaders Gather in Indonesia for Special Disaster Summit

  • Phil Mercer

Leaders from more than 20 countries gather Thursday in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, for an emergency summit on disaster relief. Europe is proposing debt relief, while the United States is boosting its military support with ships and helicopters to deliver supplies and medical help.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is hosting the conference of leaders and senior diplomats from two dozen countries. He spoke Wednesday in Jakarta at the meeting venue.

"We are ready to host the summit. This is an initiative of friendly nations to mobilize global funds to assist countries hit by the quake and tsunamis," he said.

This special one-day summit is addressing both immediate and long-term needs of the 12 Indian Ocean nations affected by the December 26 earthquake and destructive tsunamis.

Among those attending the meeting are United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, Japanese Prime

Minister Junichiro Koizumi and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

Britain, France and Germany have proposed debt relief and making up to $3 billion a year available in rebuilding loans. Experts estimate the disaster recovery effort will cost some $14 billion.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell toured the most devastated Indonesian region of Aceh Wednesday. He says the U.S. military - which has 13,000 troops and 14 ships helping in the region - will work on speeding up relief.

"One of the concerns that we discussed is to make sure we have an adequate number of flights coming in to this airfield…. I think that we can increase the throughput as it's called, the rate of arrival of planes and supplies," Mr. Powell said.

The United Nations says donations of aid from around the globe are unprecedented - governments so far have pledged more than $2 billion. The main challenge remains getting around the devastation and delivering help to those in need.

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