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US Official Pledges New Tsunami Aid for Aceh


U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has visited the Indonesian province of Aceh, where more than 165,000 people lost their lives and 600,000 were made homeless in last December's earthquake and tsunami. Mr. Zoellick unveiled another huge U.S.-funded aid project, to add to the help the United States has already provided for the victims of the disaster.

The United States has been among the leading providers of assistance to the hundreds of thousands of survivors of the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, and in Indonesia Sunday, Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick vowed to continue the help.

He signed a pledge to rebuild the vital road that runs along the northwestern coast of Indonesia's Sumatra Island, a project the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates will cost in the region of $240 million.

The project is just part of the $1 billion in public and private funds pledged by the United States for the worst-hit countries around the Indian Ocean. Aceh, which accounts for more than half the total tsunami dead, will get the bulk of those funds.

But there have been concerns about money being lost to Indonesia's endemic corruption. In meetings over the past two days, including a visit with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, officials have sought to reassure Mr. Zoellick, pointing out the extensive measures they have put in place to ensure accountability.

Mr. Zoellick says the world is watching.

"I certainly have a sense the Indonesian government is highly sensitive to the fact that the eyes of the world will be on it. The money needs to be well spent," he said.

More than four months after the original 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit, Aceh is starting to rebuild.

The road the United States has promised to repair will be a lifeline for many of the hardest-hit villages in Aceh, which are currently being supplied by boat and helicopter.

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