08 September 2005

"I do expect a lot of sympathy, and perhaps some will send cash dollars," he said. "But this country is going to rise up and take care of itself."

Offers Pour In, but the U.S. Is Unprepared.... (what a surprise)...... another not planned for bureaucratic nightmare. Is anyone in charge over there in our capital?

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 - Generous offers of aid for Hurricane Katrina victims are pouring in from scores of nations, but in many cases the United States is unprepared to receive the goods.

As a result, the State Department is pressing countries that are offering the use of helicopters, water purification equipment and telecommunications gear, among other items, to provide cash or ready-to-eat meals instead.

Many countries are being told that the most useful donation is money, and some European countries are bemused - or frustrated.

"There is a lot of stuff offered, but we are having a problem getting it over," said Claes Thorson, a spokesman at the Swedish Embassy in Washington.

Even with the difficulties, foreign aid is beginning to arrive at or near the Gulf Coast, including ready-to-eat meals from Britain, tents from France, first-aid kits and baby formula from Italy. All told, the State Department said Wednesday, donations from 49 nations or international organizations have been accepted - including $428 million in cash.

The bulk of the cash came from three oil-rich Arab nations. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates each offered $100 million.

The State Department says 95 countries, half of the world's nations, have promised aid in one form or another.

The United States is more accustomed to giving aid than receiving it, and the Bush administration seemed to have trouble accepting the role reversal, at least at first. Early last week, President Bush said the United States could take care of itself.

"I do expect a lot of sympathy, and perhaps some will send cash dollars," he said. "But this country is going to rise up and take care of itself."

As the size of the crisis became apparent, the view changed. But the preparations to receive anything but the simplest forms of aid have not caught up.

Mr. Thomas explained that the United States has no experience with situations like this. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, he said several times, "This is unprecedented."

Last weekend, the State Department sent urgent requests for international aid through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the United Nations and the European Union. At the top of the list was cash. Most of the other items requested were basic goods like food, water, medical supplies and diapers.

When Sweden received the American request, it loaded a Hercules C-130 transport plane with water purification equipment, emergency power generators and components for a temporary cellphone network. The plane has been ready to take off since noon Saturday, but has not been given clearance by Washington.

"We are still waiting for the green light," Victoria Forslund said at the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm. Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said, "If there are any miscommunications on this matter, we want to make it very clear we value their offer of assistance."

Sweden is not the only country that has encountered a problem. France, Germany, India and Taiwan, among others, are awaiting answers to offers. The slow acceptance after the urgent request has only increased the puzzlement of many countries.

On Monday, only one plane bearing foreign aid arrived in Little Rock, Ark., a staging area. On Tuesday, 11 planes arrived. Wednesday and Thursday, more planes - from Britain, China, France, Russia, Spain and Israel - are due.

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