KURUMBA, Maldives (AP) – Former President Clinton said Sunday he would ask donors to help fully restore water and sanitation services in the tsunami-ravaged Maldives, a day after he canceled a visit to areas struck by the huge waves in the Indian Ocean archipelago.

Clinton, who was recently named special U.N. envoy for tsunami recovery, met with the United Nations’ country office team and later with business leaders and civil society representatives. After the meetings, he said his first job would be “to try and get commitments from donors to fill the gaps, particularly in water and sanitation.”

He also pledged to do what he can to “restore tourism and diversify the economy.”

The Maldives needs $406 million for reconstruction over the next three years, but has so far only received $79 million in aid.

The government says donors may be ignoring the Maldives because the number killed there in the Dec. 26 tsunami was much lower than that of other countries. A total of 82 people died when the huge waves crashed into the nation of about 1,200 low-lying islands off southern India, while another 26 remain missing and are presumed dead.

But the tsunami affected one-third of the archipelago’s 290,000 people and only nine of its 199 inhabited islands were spared destruction. The tourism industry, the Maldives’ biggest moneymaker, was devastated as vacationers shunned its beaches.

“A lot of people have not been convinced yet that the Maldives and some of the other places hit by the tsunami are open for business and perfectly safe,” Clinton said.

The former U.S. leader appeared rested after canceling a trip to meet with tsunami survivors and pushing back a string of meetings with business leaders and civil groups at the Kurumba luxury resort, near the Maldives’ capital, Male.

A visit to the Fonadhoo island – where the tsunami tore away a seawall and turned the island’s settlement into a ghost town – was called off late Saturday, as was a trip to meet survivors who had moved to a neighboring island, linked to Fonadhoo by a causeway.

Some officials said the cancellation was due to bad weather while others said Clinton, who had a heart bypass operation in September, was exhausted.

The former president’s visit coincided with the start of the monsoon season, and the country’s meteorology department had forecast intermittent rain showers and moderate seas on Sunday.

Erskine Bowles, Clinton’s former chief of staff and deputy to the ex-president in his role as special U.N. envoy for tsunami recovery, said Clinton was set to travel Monday to the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh – hardest hit by the disaster.

Clinton is on a four-day trip to India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia to ensure that aid is being distributed fairly and efficiently, and to try keeping the world’s attention on tsunami recovery.

The Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 176,000 people in 11 countries, and left about 50,000 missing and hundreds of thousands homeless.


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