The United States asked NATO Thursday for help in transporting European aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina amid concern that assistance is not getting through to the devastated region quickly enough.
US Ambassador Victoria Nuland asked allies at an emergency meeting to study "a stronger logistical and transport role" for the 26-nation defence alliance in shifting the mass of pledged European humanitarian aid, NATO and US officials said.
"Especially heavy sea-lift may be used," said one NATO official, who requested anonymity. Some airlift assistance was also being examined.
NATO ambassadors were expected to take a decision on the request today, and a mission could be mobilised within three to five days of an agreement on what was to be transported.
"There was broad support for this in the meeting today," a US mission spokesman said.
NATO, together with the European Union, is already acting as a clearing house for European offers of help to Katrina victims ranging from medical supplies, tents, water purification and high-speed pumps to diapers, gloves and coats.
Some European officials have cited snags in getting the aid through. One Swedish plane laden with aid was kept waiting this week because it lacked approval to land in the United States.
NATO nations have a number of "roll-on roll-off" ships suitable for delivering bulky equipment.
The mission would be an early test of the alliance's much-heralded NATO Response Force (NRF), a rapid-reaction fighting unit created to allow it deploy in trouble zones across the globe within a matter of days.
Source: China Daily