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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 00:37 GMT

World: Americas

Clinton sees aid in action

Families in Honduras are still living in makeshift homes

President Bill Clinton announced a $25m aid package for Honduras while inspecting some of the work already carried out by US troops in the wake of Hurricane Mitch.

Hurricane Mitch
The cash is on top of almost $1bn he wants Congress to authorise for help across the region.

Mr Clinton was in Honduras continuing his tour of Central American countries battered by Hurricane Mitch last year.

In the capital, Tegucigalpa, President Clinton's motorcade crawled through crowded streets to Juan Molina bridge, which has been rebuilt with the help of US Marines.

[ image: President Clinton tested Marine engineering by walking across the Juan Molina bridge]
President Clinton tested Marine engineering by walking across the Juan Molina bridge
But much of the country's infrastructure still needs to be to be repaired.

Travelling to Tegucigalpa by air Mr Clinton could see vivid reminders of the power of Mitch - tracts of land remain discoloured by mud and silt thrown up in the torrential rains.

Earlier, the president visited US troops, stationed at Soto Cano in Honduras, who have been helping the ongoing relief effort.

The president told them their work had restored faith in a future that was almost washed away.

Aid plea

Political wrangling in Washington has so far delayed the release of $956m which Mr Clinton wants to spend on aid to Central America.

BBC US Correspondent Clive Myrie: "Swathes of discoloured land"
Mr Clinton said: "We expect almost a third of [the aid package] to come to Honduras to improve public health, to build homes and schools, to rebuild roads so farmers can move their produce to market."

Congressional Republicans said they hoped to release the money soon but that they would insist on US control of the spending.

Republicans say they want the cash to be put into a special account administered by the State Department and the Agency for International Development.

Hurricane Mitch claimed more than 9,000 lives across Central America. Honduras suffered the greatest death toll with more than 5,000 fatalities.

Illegal immigrants

The president also met community leaders and aid organisations in Honduras to discuss ways of rebuilding the country.

They discussed Washington's intention to resume returning to Honduras, from the US, illegal immigrants who fled the hurricane.

BBC correspondent Clive Myrie says that while Honduras is grateful for US help it is dismayed at the US stance on illegal immigrants.

Honduras says the return of its nationals will add to the pressures the country is already facing.

Mr Clinton, who began his tour in Nicaragua on Monday, is also to visit El Salvador and Guatemala, where he will look at measures to help the region in the longer term.

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Internet Links

UN Hurricane Mitch Information Centre

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US State Dept: Hurricane Mitch

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