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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 08:06 GMT
US-UK tensions over aid effort
Clare Short
Short: 'Aid effort is being hampered'
International Development Secretary Clare Short has accused the United States of not taking the aid effort seriously enough, amid signs of growing trans-Atlantic tension over Afghanistan.

The only great power in the world almost turns its back on the rest of the world

Clare Short, international development secretary
Ms Short raised doubts about America's commitment to the support needed to rebuild Afghanistan after the fall of the Taleban.

She warned the Commons International Development select committee that failures of communication by the US military were hampering the aid effort in Afghanistan.

The US did not appear to share in the growing international consensus that action to alleviate poverty worldwide was needed to prevent a repeat of the 11 September atrocities, said Ms Short.

Her comments have been welcomed by charities who say time is running out to get aid into Afghanistan.

Generous support

Ms Short told the committee: "The only great power in the world almost turns its back on the rest of the world.

"It is not that the US is ungenerous. It is just that it is not sharing the insight that other countries have got and it is very important that we try to get them there."

Shadow international development secretary Caroline Spelman said the US has not turned its back on the people of Afghanistan.

"America was the largest donor of aid to Afghanistan before 11 September.

"Without American help the Taleban would still be oppressing the people of Afghanistan."

But John Davidson, spokesman for the charity Christian Aid, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Ms Short's assessment of the situation was timely.

"The window of opportunity to provide food to the most vulnerable areas shrinks all the time," he said.

He argued a UN presence was needed in the region to ensure humanitarian aid could be delivered, amid concern that the situation within Afghanistan had deteriorated since the Northern Alliance made gains 10 days ago.

Rift played down

Earlier, Downing Street played down reports of a rift with the US over troop deployments.

Washington is said to be wary of committing peacekeeping forces, preferring to concentrate on capturing Osama Bin Laden and destroying his al-Qaeda network.

Prime Minister Tony Blair is thought to be in favour of deploying troops on the ground.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said the prime minister spoke by phone to President George W Bush on Monday as part of a continuing dialogue on Afghanistan and covered humanitarian, diplomatic and military efforts.

Both leaders agreed "great progress" had been made in the past 10 days but acknowledged "there was still a lot more that had to be done".

Earlier Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed bemusement at suggestions of a rift.

"We are not going to put forces in place without the agreement of the United States and a fair understanding about what our troops will do to add to the overall work of the military coalition," he said.

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See also:

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Allies 'split': Fact or fiction?
20 Nov 01 | UK Politics
US 'turning its back' on poverty
16 Nov 01 | UK Politics
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05 Nov 01 | Americas
US special forces 'botched mission'
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