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Powell, Jeb Bush to tour ravaged areas

By Steven R. Weisman and David E. Sanger- New York Times News Service

WASHINGTON, DEC. 30. The U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell, seeking to raise the American profile in the international relief effort in Asia, will tour devastated parts of the region next week to assess the need for future aid programmes along with Jeb Bush, Governor of Florida, the White House announced Thursday.

Mr. Powell also moved on Thursday to step up coordination between the United Nations and a core group of countries organised by the Bush administration to speed aid and avoid duplication. The ``core group'' — India, Japan, Australia and the United States — was established this week.

Hurt feelings

The decision to send Mr. Powell and Mr. Jeb Bush, President Bush's brother, was seen by administration officials as likely to help defuse whatever hurt feelings there might be in Asia that Mr. Bush was slow to respond, at least compared with how quickly many other nations reacted to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Powell reiterated several times on Thursday that the U.S. contribution of $35 million for relief efforts from East Africa to South and South-East Asia was only the beginning, based on initial assessments of teams that sprang into action within hours of the earthquake .

``As the need becomes clearer, you can expect the United States to make more significant contributions in the days, weeks and months ahead,'' he said outside the Indonesian Embassy, where he signed a condolence book. He also signed similar books at the Sri Lankan and Thai embassies.

Aid officials said that the U.S. move to set up the core group of countries was an innovation in international relief efforts as the disaster had affected many countries.

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