STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) – For four days, a C-130 transport plane ready to lift supplies to Katrina victims has stood idle at an air base in Sweden. The aid includes a water purification system that may be urgently needed amid signs deadly diseases could be spreading through fetid pools in New Orleans.

The one thing that stands in the way of takeoff? Approval by U.S. officials.

Although some foreign aid is on the way to the U.S., many international donors are complaining of frustration that bureaucratic entanglements are hindering shipments to the United States.

“We have to get some kind of signal (from the U.S.) in the next few days,” said Karin Viklund of the Swedish Rescue Services Agency. “We really hope we will get it.” Aside from water purification units, the country has offered blankets and mobile network equipment.

Swiss officials expected an answer to their aid offer by Tuesday night. As of Wednesday afternoon, supplies were still sitting in a warehouse outside Bern as authorities awaited a response, said Andreas Stauffer, spokesman for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The United States has accepted offers of nearly $1 billion in assistance from some 95 countries, said Harry K. Thomas Jr., the State Department’s executive secretary. One of those rejected came from Iran.

Tehran offered to send 20 million barrels of crude oil if Washington waived trade sanctions, but Thomas said the offer was rejected because it was conditional. The sanctions were imposed after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took its occupants hostage in 1979.

Thomas said “every country has heard from us, all have been told their offers are being evaluated and that ‘we may take your offers later.”‘

But Poland, Austria and Norway said they had not heard back on their aid offers, and countries outside Europe said they were also waiting for replies:

• India, which regularly is hit by flooding from monsoon rains, has a planeload of supplies waiting but nowhere to send it.

• Taiwan is waiting to hear from the United States for guidance on how it wants to spend the $2 million the island has pledged before it transfers the money, according to Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Michel Lu.

• South Korea has promised $30 million and initially said it would send about 40 rescue workers and 100 tons of goods such as blankets, diapers, crutches, bunk beds and wheelchairs, to the United States by this weekend. But Foreign Ministry spokesman Lee Kyu-hyung said Wednesday the delivery will likely be delayed until next week as “preparations are not going well.”

Even Honduras – the second-poorest country in Latin America and the Caribbean – has offered aid. It was told by the U.S. Embassy that “at this moment, the U.S. government is not asking for international assistance.”

However, some countries said they received detailed requests for help from U.S. authorities and have started shipping supplies.

European Commission spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said “the coordination effort is going much, much better because aid is now leaving and aid is arriving.”

She said glitches are to be expected. “The Europeans and the Americans had to learn to work together,” she said. “Coordination is the most difficult thing in any relief effort.”

The British government said it began sending some 500,000 military ration packs with food on Monday and that it was working closely with U.S. authorities in the recovery effort.

German officials approved sending forensic experts to help identify Katrina victims after being asked by the U.S. government, spokesman Thomas Steg said.

He said that on Wednesday, a separate group of some 90 technicians left the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany aboard a U.S. military plane equipped with 15 large-capacity pumps to help clear floodwaters from residential areas.

European aircraft maker Airbus said the world’s largest air cargo plane, the A300-600 Super Transporter, was carrying French and British relief supplies to hurricane-stricken areas.

The global mobilization has been accompanied by widespread surprise at the mayhem in New Orleans. People around the world have been shocked by the images of the devastation, and also by the looting and disorder that followed and the perceived shortcomings in the response by U.S. authorities.

“We have all watched as a large part of the United States fell from a First World society into Third World death, chaos and social breakdown,” historian J.L. Granastein, a fellow of the Canadian Defense and Foreign Affairs Institute, wrote in Canada’s The Globe and Mail.

Fintan O’Toole, writing in The Irish Times, said the disaster revealed “the underlying nature of a troubled country.”

“When America looks at the huge expanse of filthy, fetid water that has drowned New Orleans, it becomes a mirror in which it finally sees the scars on its own face. The scars of poverty, of racism, of ideological zealotry, of public corruption and of environmental degradation, usually concealed by a cosmetic media, become visible,” he wrote.


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