Tsunami Relief Donations Top $3 Billion

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Australia committed $764 million Wednesday to help Indonesia recover from the tsunami disaster, becoming the largest relief donor hours after Germany increased its aid to $674 million as the second-biggest contributor.

The pledge by Australia came on top of its previously announced donation of $46 million, making the country's total $810 million. It also pushed the worldwide total of donations over the $3 billion mark.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who flew over Sumatra's devastated coast Wednesday, has not announced any increase in the U.S. commitment of $350 million, a number he has called sufficient for now. In Washington, the White House said Tuesday the number is likely to rise eventually.

U.N. Humanitarian Chief Jan Egeland touched off a controversy Dec. 27 when he said the rich do too little to assist the poor when there are no emergencies.

"We were more generous when we were less rich," he said. "And it is beyond me why we are so stingy." Egeland has said his complaint was directed at no nation in particular.

On Tuesday, Egeland was asked to comment about "competitive compassion," in which countries try to outdo each other in terms of generosity.

"I'd rather see competitive compassion than no compassion," he said.

"If this is competitive compassion, I would welcome that as long as it is an equal compassion for everybody. It hurts as much to be wounded in the Congo as in Kosovo. It hurts as much to be displaced in Sudan as it does in Sri Lanka. It is as terrible to see your child dying of diarrhea in Banda Aceh as it is to see you child dying from diarrhea in Guinea."

But he called the global response to the tsunami "phenomenal."

The United States, which initially said it would donate $15 million, increased it to $35 million and since has increased it tenfold — putting it behind Australia, Germany and Japan.

In announcing the aid increase on a visit to Jakarta, Australian Prime Minister John Howard called it "a historic step in Indonesian-Australian relations in the wake of this terrible natural disaster."

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on Wednesday pledged $674 million in long-term tsunami aid, and Japan has pledged $500 million to help the millions of victims rebuild from the disaster that killed 140,000.

As the new Congress convened in Washington, legislators announced plans to introduce a bill that would allow Americans to claim tax deductions when filing their 2004 forms for donations made through Jan. 31 to tsunami relief efforts.

Powell, Howard, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi are to attend a summit on tsunami relief in Jakarta that begins Thursday.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country with 238 million people, had the largest loss of life in the earthquake and tsunami that struck 12 countries around the Indian Ocean. Indonesia is a fledgling democracy and an ally in the Bush administration's war on terrorism, but suspicion of Americans runs deep here.

Germany's pledge of $674 million is the largest by a European government in the global outpouring of aid.

"We simply want to help," Schroeder said. "It's not about who is first in aid giving. We have no ambitions about our ranking."

Schroeder said Western nations could win friends among the Asian region's inhabitants by giving aid.

"This enormous willingness to help — by America, by Europe — makes it clear that the last thing we want is a clash of cultures," he said.

Private donations across Europe have surged along with government aid, in some cases shaming officials into urging governments to offer more.

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini urged his country's official institutions to be more generous after contributing $5.35 million, given that private donations had reached $33.1 million.

Formula One racing champion Michael Schumacher, who lost one of his bodyguards in the disaster, has pledged $10 million in one of the single biggest donations by an individual. Willi Weber, the manager for the auto racing star, made the pledge in a telephone call Tuesday to a televised fund-raiser in Germany, according to a spokeswoman for Schumacher.

The generosity drew praise from Schroeder.

"We are all proud of this readiness to help," he said.