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European Union nations pledge $575 million for Haiti aid

BRUSSELS — European Union nations pledged over euro400 million ($575 million) Monday to help quake survivors and rebuilding efforts in Haiti after last week's massive earthquake.

The European Union Commission said it would contribute euro330 million ($474 million) in emergency and long-term aid to Haiti. EU member states also poured euro92 million ($132 million) in emergency aid alone.

In addition, the EU was moving toward sending 150 people to be part of a police force to beef up security in the quake-hit Caribbean nation.

“We have taken swift action,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton after an emergency meeting of the 27-nation EU's development ministers.

Development Secretary Douglas Alexander said Britain would triple its commitment to 20 million pounds ($32.7 million) to deal with “an almost unprecedented level of devastation.” France committed euro10 million ($14.4 million) and Italy said it was “willing” to forgive Haiti's euro40 million ($55.7 million) debt on top of its aid pledges.

The Haitian earthquake is fast becoming the largest international relief effort since the cataclysmic Asian tsunami of 2004. Estimates put the death toll from the 7.0-magnitude quake on Jan. 12 from 50,000 to 100,000 — but Haitian officials believe the toll will exceed that.

“Our initial assessments show a level of humanitarian need which would severely test the international response in any circumstances,” said Alexander. “But the impact of this earthquake is magnified because it has hit a country that was already desperately poor and historically volatile.”

The EU also planned to send a mission to Haiti to help the government there get a grip on the chaotic circumstances.

“It is a critical element,” said EU Development Commissioner Karel De Gucht.

In Paris, however, Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet — who had already complained that U.S. forces had held up French aid — said Monday he wants the American role in Haiti clarified.

“This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,” Joyandet said.

U.S. officials had turned a French aid plane back from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince because the airport was overcrowded. The plane landed the following day.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned governments and aid groups Monday not to squabble as they try to get their aid into earthquake-ravaged Haiti. He told France-Info radio that “people always want it to be their plane ... that lands” but “what's important is the fate of the Haitians.”

In Denmark, aid organizations from the Danish Red Cross to UNICEF Denmark and Save the Children raised 18 million kroner ($3.48 million) so far.

Twelve Swedish charity agencies have received donations of around 50 million kronor ($7.1 million) since the earthquake struck — with 21 million kronor of that from the Swedish post code lottery.

A Dutch navy ship with aid and 80 military and relief workers was expected to dock Monday in Haiti and a Dutch charter plane left on a mission to evacuate some 100 children whose adoption has been accelerated because of the quake.

Outside of the EU, Norway, a country of only 4.8 million, decided to increase aid to Haiti to 100 million kroner ($17.7 million).

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