US to help rebuild tsunami-hit lives
* UK proposes richest countries freeze debt for tsunami countries
PHUKET: The United States will help the millions devastated by the Indian Ocean tsunami rebuild their lives, but an effort on the scale of the Marshall Plan is probably not needed, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Tuesday.
“The aftermath of the tsunami is a tragedy for the entire world,” Powell said in Bangkok before heading south to the resort island of Phuket, the centre of the Thai relief operations for the Dec. 26 tragedy which has claimed more than 150,000 lives.
“The United States will certainly not turn away from those in desperate need,” he said, although he added: “I don’t think it needs something on the scale of the Marshall Plan.” Washington launched the Marshall Plan in 1947 to rebuild Western Europe two years after the end of a war which left the eastern half of the continent under Communist control.
After walking past a wall plastered with hundreds of photographs of missing tourists and Thais on Phuket, Powell also sought to deflect initial criticism of Washington for being slow and stingy in providing disaster relief.
“One thing the Thai people can be sure of is that they have a friend and ally in the United States. President Bush is determined to do everything we can to assist Thailand,” Powell told a news conference outside Phuket’s City Hall.
Debt freezing: Britain unveiled on Tuesday a proposal for the world’s wealthiest nations to freeze immediately about three billion dollars in annual debt repayments from countries hit by the tsunami disaster in the Indian Ocean.
The freeze would be offered as part of a broader package of emergency aid and reconstruction funds for countries hit by the disaster on December 26, Britain’s finance minister Gordon Brown said.
The proposals were expected to be presented on January 12 in the French capital to the Paris Club of creditor nations.
Brown said the United States and other members of the G8 group of industrialized nations, whose chairmanship Britain assumed January 1, supported the immediate freeze on debt repayments. Canada last week put in place a unilateral debt moratorium for nations hit by the Asian tsunami catastrophe with “immediate effect”. agencies