President Bush says America remains committed to helping the victims of the Asian tsunami, as relief efforts evolve from saving lives to rebuilding communities. Mr. Bush indicates the U.S. aid commitment is likely to increase as new needs become clear.
The president got a briefing on aid efforts Monday from Secretary of State Colin Powell, who recently returned from the affected region. Mr. Bush told reporters after the meeting that America will not walk away once the initial relief phase is over.
"The government of the United States is committed to helping the people who suffer," he said. "We are committed today and we will be committed tomorrow."
When asked how much additional money might be set aside to help, the president was vague. He said there could be an increase, and stressed the amount will be determined as needs are assessed.
"Well, we'll see," he said. "I think the important thing is to make sure that, as one person noted the other day, that the dollars are demand driven."
A short time later, the president left the White House and headed to the Washington headquarters of the U.S. Agency for International Development. He talked to agency staff, and to representatives of various private organizations that are providing humanitarian assistance to the tsunami victims. Mr. Bush thanked them for their work.
"A little more than two weeks ago, the world witnessed one of the worst displays of natural destruction in history," the president said. "Since that time, the world has witnessed one of history's greatest displays of compassion."
In addition to logistical help provided by the U.S. military, the United States government has pledged $350 million to help countries hit by the tsunami. The White House said Monday that $78 million had already been spent.
In his remarks at the aid agency, the president stressed that America will remain involved long after the world moves its attention elsewhere. He said the United States has a duty to help.