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US Pledges Increased Aid to Sri Lanka's Tsunami Victims

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States has pledged an additional $10 million to Sri Lankan victims of last month's tsunami. He made the promise after visiting parts of the country devastated by the deadly waves.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says Washington will increase the approximately $14 million in relief aid it has already promised Sri Lanka by $10 million, to be used for those left homeless by last month's tsunami.

"Another $10 million will be going to Sri Lanka for the purpose of constructing temporary housing in order to get people out from under plastic sheeting and into temporary housing, until such time that permanent housing can be made available," said Mr. Powell.

In addition, Mr. Powell says, a greater portion of the $350 million the United States has pledged for tsunami victims across Asia may be directed to Sri Lanka, once the nation's needs are assessed.

He made a one-day visit to Sri Lanka after attending an international donors conference in Indonesia. Some 26 nations and organizations pledged a total of $3 billion in assistance to the 12 nations struck by the disaster.

Sri Lanka lost more than 30,000 people to the waves, second only to Indonesia, which has confirmed more than 100,000 deaths.

The Secretary of State toured areas near the southern city of Galle, to see the extent of the devastation for himself. He also met with Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga to discuss ways to help the survivors.

Some 200 U.S. marines are in Sri Lanka to help with relief efforts, which so far have focused on cleaning up devastated areas and creating jobs as a means of boosting the economy. As many as 1,500 U.S. personnel may eventually be deployed in the country.

Mr. Powell says those forces will be restricted to areas under control of the Sri Lankan government, not those areas in the north and east of the country that are controlled by the separatist Tamil Tiger rebels.

The rebels have complained that the government is not sending adequate aid to its areas, which were badly damaged by the tsunamis. Although Mr. Powell says he has had no direct contact with the rebels, he is confident aid is getting through to their areas.

"The reports that I received from the government suggest that aid is going into the northern part of their country, those parts of the country under their control,” he said. “The government believes the Tamil regions are getting as much or more of their proportion, and we'll have to wait and measure that over time."

The rebels have been waging an insurgency for more than 20 years, seeking independence or autonomy for those areas of the country where the ethnic Tamil minority is predominant.

Prior to the tsunami, there were signs that a ceasefire between the rebels and the government was beginning to unravel. Hopes that the disaster might bring the two sides together have been undercut by disagreements between the two over the relief effort.