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US Foreign Aid Priorities Include Health, Strategic Countries

The proposed U.S. foreign aid budget for fiscal year 2007 has increased compared to the current year and priorities have changed.

James Painter with the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID, says the amount in the president's budget request allocated to international affairs for the next fiscal year is more than $35 billion.

"The international affairs budget is up 11.2 percent, and the assistance portions, which would leave out state operations, are up about 13 percent over fiscal 2006," he said. "So, it's clear that international affairs, those of you who have had a long history with us, know that it wasn't always so. And, certainly now, that there is a link between development, defense and diplomacy, the fortunes of the international affairs budget has certainly changed."

He spoke in Washington to a group of private volunteer organizations that advise USAID, an independent federal agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the State Department. The American official said one of the U.S. government's priorities will be sending development assistance to so-called strategic countries.

"The largest share, of course, goes to assistance to coalition partners in the war on terror - countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Jordan, Colombia," he said.

He said other priorities include health programs, such as four billion dollars for global AIDS relief, and a program to fight malaria.

"Child survival is up because we have increased funding for two significant emerging health threats," Painter continued. "One of them is malaria. There is an increase of $166 million in the budget request for malaria, including $135 million for the President's malaria initiative."

Painter said the U.S. government has been trying to change the way it makes budgets and is seeking to develop a more strategic approach to funding future aid programs.