Mexican troops join relief effort as 94 nations offer aid

According to the State Department, 94 countries have volunteered help, among them not only America's wealthy allies, but also some of the world's poorest nations - such as Afghanistan - and traditional US foes like Cuba and Iran. Assistance from the latter two has been in effect refused. But Washington has accepted offers from 49 countries, officials say.

But, mirroring its immediate domestic response to the crisis, the federal and local bureaucracy has been ill-prepared to handle contributions from abroad, which now total over $1bn (£540,000), more than $400m in cash. Long used to providing aid to others, the US is not used to receiving it in the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Indeed, early in the crisis, Mr Bush - loath to acknowledgeAmerican weakness - implied that his country could look after itself. "I do expect a lot of sympathy ... but this country is going to rise up and take care of it." That attitude may have changed as the scale of the calamity emerged. The State Department has assured bemused would-be foreign donors that their contributions are valued, claiming the problem lay in co-ordinating them with the domestic relief effort.

Matching aid offers to needs on the ground was "a complicated process", a State Department spokesman said. That answer, however, is of small comfort to, among others, Sweden, which waited days for permission to send a cargo plane full of water purifiers and communication equipment - two of New Orleans most pressing needs.

Aid is now starting to roll in. Canada, whose own relations with Washington have been very strained of late, has sent naval vessels to the Gulf and promised additional oil deliveries. The 45-vehicle Mexican convoy which crossed the Rio Grande into the US at Laredo yesterday brought water purification plants and mobile army kitchens.

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