Bush announces more Afghan refugee aid

By KATHY A. GAMBRELL, White House reporter  |  Oct. 4, 2001 at 12:10 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- President Bush on Thursday traveled to the U.S. Department of State where he announced $320 million in humanitarian aid for refugees fleeing Afghanistan ahead of a suspected U.S. retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"There's no question we are an angry people about what happened to our country, but in our anger we must never forget we are a compassionate people as well," Bush said. "We will fight evil but in order to overcome evil the great goodness of America must come forth and shine forth, and one way to do so is to help the poor souls in Afghanistan."

Bush added: "I want to remind the world that helping people in need is a central part of not only the Christian faith, but of Judaism, and the Hindu faith, and of course, a central part of Islamic traditions. And that's why our coalition is more than just one to rout terrorism out of the world, it's one to bind together, to knit those traditions in a way that helps people in need."

The president said the United States would work with U.N. agencies, such as the World Food Program, and private organizations to make certain the assistance reaches refugees both within Afghanistan's borders and in neighboring countries.

The aid will provide the Afghan people with food and medication as winter approaches the region.

The United States has been the largest donor of aid to Afghan refugees, providing food and supplies. Reports had filtered back to State Department officials the Taliban regime was confiscating food meant for the people in the country.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon near Washington, tension between the United States and Afghanistan, where suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has sanctuary, has reached crisis level. Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled toward neighboring countries.

So far, the United States government has provided $183.5 million in aid to Afghanistan, according to the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The U.N. refugee agency reported that, as of Sept. 25, up to 25,000 Afghans were waiting on the Chaman border crossing near Quetta, Baluchistan, as the Pakistan border remains officially closed. In addition, another 20,000 Afghans are massing at Torkham near Peshawar. The agency also estimated 1.5 million Afghan refugees likely would flee the country, including up to 1 million flowing into Pakistan. And it estimated $268 million would be needed for transport, water, health and sanitation needs.

While expressing his concern for the people of Afghanistan, the White House said Bush also would turn his attention later in the day to America's workers who lost their jobs after the attacks. The president is expected Thursday afternoon to announce an emergency aid package for displaced workers.

That will come after he meets in the Oval Office with Mexican President Vicente Fox who has returned to Washington for the first time since the attacks and less than a month after his state visit on Sept. 5. The two leaders are expected to reaffirm U.S.-Mexico cooperation and Fox is expected to express his solidarity with the United States' campaign against terrorism.

Later in the afternoon Bush meets with the Emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani also to reaffirm diplomatic ties. The emir met with Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday.

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