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'Stingy' remark hits US, which adds $20m to aid

WASHINGTON -- The US Agency for International Development is adding $20 million to an initial $15 million contribution for Asian earthquake relief as Secretary of State Colin L. Powell bristled at a United Nations official's suggestion the United States has been "stingy."

Confirming the new assistance, Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli also disclosed yesterday a large number of missing Americans had been found and were safe. But Ereli said hundreds of others remained unaccounted for and that seven had perished in Sri Lanka and five in Thailand.

Describing the $20 million as a line of credit, Ereli said the money will be made available to countries devastated by the most powerful earthquake in 40 years. This new total of $35 million is bound to be increased, he said.

At the Pentagon, meanwhile, the Navy said the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, which had been in port at Hong Kong, had been ordered to sail for the stricken area to provide assistance. A five-ship fleet headed by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard will skip a port call in Guam to sail for the region.

Powell, annoyed by the UN official's criticism, went on morning television talk shows to say the Bush administration will follow up its contributions with additional large sums.

"The United States has given more aid in the last four years than any other nation or combination of nations in the world," Powell said when asked about the comments Monday by Jan Egeland, the UN humanitarian aid chief.

Powell chafed at statements that Egeland made at a news conference, at which he exhorted rich nations to do more.

"We were more generous when we were less rich, many of the rich countries," Egeland said. "And it is beyond me, why are we so stingy, really . . . even Christmas time should remind many Western countries at least how rich we have become."

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