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U.S. to give additional aid to Indonesia

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The United States said on Thursday it will provide an additional $50 million in aid to Indonesia in the form of food and loan guarantees.

Brian Atwood, chief of the U.S. Agency for International Development, told reporters Washington had already allocated $105 million in humanitarian aid to the country.New grants above that amount include $25 million worth of rice to be distributed to the urban poor and $25 million in loan guarantees to support urban environmental infrastructure, he said.

"The United States understands the severe hardships that Indonesians are facing and we are committed to standing by Indonesian and international efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of this country," he said.

Atwood, who met President B.J. Habibie earlier in the day, said political instability had not yet come to an end in Indonesia but that he could see a rough consensus evolving among the country's political elite.

"I come away with a feeling of guarded optimism about the future," he said. "I don't believe that we've seen the end of political confrontation by any means, but for the most part that is to be expected in situations like this.

"What we hope is that people will understand people's needs. People are falling into poverty, so people don't have the luxury of extending this political crisis into a long period of time."

Indonesia, battered since last year by a ravaging economic crisis, has been in political flux for several months. Long-ruling president Suharto stepped down on May 21 after mounting protests against his rule and riots in which about 1,200 people were killed.