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Bush: International Coalition to Coordinate Relief for Ravaged Asia


President Bush says the United States will stand by the victims of the Indian Ocean earthquake and resulting tsunami, calling the tragedy one of the major natural disasters in world history. Mr. Bush says America will work with other countries to coordinate help.

President Bush says it is a terrible tragedy beyond all comprehension. He says the United States mourns the dead and vows to help the survivors.

"Our prayers go out to the people who have lost so much to this series of disasters," he said.

In his first public comments on the earthquake and resulting tsunami, the president reflected on the massive loss of life and property. Speaking to reporters at his Texas ranch, he said it is important for the world to know that the United States is reaching out to those who suffer.

"We are committed to helping the affected countries in the difficult weeks and months that lie ahead," the president said.

The president spoke of an international coalition to coordinate worldwide relief and reconstruction efforts. He said the United States will team up with India, Australia and Japan to get aid to those in need, adding he is confident more nations will join in.

"And together the world will cope with their loss. We will prevail over this destruction," he said.

Mr. Bush stressed the U.S. contribution will go far beyond the $35 million already pledged. He said American rescue teams and military manpower are being sent to help in the short term as major long-term needs are assessed. The president said the size of the rebuilding effort will become known soon.

"The United States will continue to stand with the affected governments as they care for the victims. We will stand with them as they start to rebuild their communities," Mr. Bush said.

The president said he had talked to the leaders of India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Indonesia and was targeting initial relief efforts based on their requests. He was asked about the comments of a U.N. official, who suggested that rich nations like the United States have been stingy in providing assistance. Mr. Bush noted that the United States provided $2.4 billion in international disaster aid in 2004 - 40 percent of all the relief assistance provided worldwide.

"I felt like the person who made that statement was very misguided and ill-informed," he said.

Mr. Bush also talked about the need for an international tsunami warning system. He said the idea makes sense, noting that a system was not in place in the region affected by Sunday's disaster.