Bush offering $320 million humanitarian aid to Afghanistan

By Barry Schweid

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – President Bush, bracing for war against Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, offered $320 million in humanitarian aid Thursday for the Afghan people and neighboring states “in a time of crisis and in a time of need.”

Bush said America stands ready to help the “poor souls” suffering under the hard-line regime.

“American will stand strong and will oppose the sponsors of terror, and America will stand strong to help those people who are hurt by those regimes,” he told employees in a visit to the State Department.

White House officials said Bush’s package includes $295 million in new U.S. assistance for Afghans suffering through drought, famine and the threat of U.S.-led military action. The money also will aid refugees crossing from Afghanistan into surrounding countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Much of the money is designed to help Afghans survive what is expected to be a brutal winter. Bush said food and medicine can be bought with the money.

Over the weekend, Bush dipped into an emergency fund and authorized $25 million in relief for Afghan refugees. The new money brings the relief package to $320 million, which will be provided through the United Nations, the Red Cross and nongovernmental organizations.

Bush thanked U.S. diplomats for helping him build a global coalition against terrorism.

“We will stand strong on the side of good, and we expect other nations to join us,” Bush said. “This is our way of saying while we firmly and strongly oppose the Taliban regime, we are friends of the Afghan people.”

Still, Bush said the U.S. will not bow.

“We’re a compassionate nation,” he said, “but our compassion is limited.”

In discussing Afghanistan Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell refused to set limits on a prospective U.S. military campaign against the terrorists suspected in the New York and Washington attacks and their backers.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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