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US Accepting All Offers of Foreign Hurricane Aid

The State Department says the United States is accepting all offers of Hurricane Katrina relief aid from foreign governments and international organizations. More than 20 countries have offered help and officials say the list is growing.

The U.S. government, facing momentous damage from the Gulf Coast hurricane disaster, is accepting in principle all foreign offers of assistance that can be matched with needs in the stricken region.

The blanket acceptance of international help came from White House and State Department spokesmen Thursday as a growing list of foreign countries and international organizations stepped forward with aid offers.

State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack said that, as off mid-day Thursday, more than 20 countries had made specific or general offers of relief help. They included world powers such as Russia, China and Japan, small states including Jamaica and El Salvador, and Venezuela, a country with which the United States has had a difficult relationship in recent years.

NATO and the Organization of American States have also responded.

Mr. McCormack said a State Department team lead by Undersecretary of State Nicolas Burns was compiling the offers, and conveying them to the Department of Homeland Security and its Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to be matched up with needs on the ground.

He said the United States, which has responded to many natural disasters abroad in recent years, is gratified that so many countries have come forward with aid offers and expressions of condolence over the losses caused by Hurricane Katrina:

"It's a growing list, and I think that Americans should take great heart that in a time of need, we have a substantial inflow of offers of assistance from around the world," said Mr. McCormack. "We have been receiving messages of sympathy and condolences from around the world. I think that Americans should be heartened by the fact that the world is reaching out to United States and the American people in a time of need."

Mr. McCormack said the various countries and organizations have offered, among other things, cash, aircraft, boats and teams trained for rescue operations and restoring electrical power. He said Venezuela has offered refined petroleum products in light of the fact that the storm has sharply curtailed U.S. refining capability in the stricken area, a critical oil industry center.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice interrupted what was to have been a vacation week to discuss the hurricane crisis with, among others, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.