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Former US Presidents Visit Indonesia's Tsunami-Devastated Aceh Province

Former U.S. Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton toured Indonesia's Aceh region Sunday to see firsthand the destruction caused by the December 26 earthquake and tsunami that struck a dozen Indian Ocean countries. The aim of their visit is to keep donor interest alive during the rebuilding phase.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Sunday before flying to Aceh Province.

They discussed accountability and transparency in the distribution of aid.

Indonesia is ranked as one of the world's most corrupt countries but Mr. Yudhoyono reassured the former presidents aid money would be spent wisely.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton then flew over Aceh, much of which was destroyed by the tsunami. Roads and bridges are gone, and whole communities have been wiped out.

Mr. Clinton said he had never seen anything like the Aceh destruction. He estimated it would take three to five years for the region to recover.

More than 290,000 people were killed by the December 26 tsunami, most of them in Aceh. More than a million were displaced.

Mr. Bush says he hopes their visit will help aid efforts.

"What we want to do is just to be sure that we keep the interest of the American people up, the private sector so they will continue to generously support whatever efforts are determined best on the ground," said George H.W. Bush.

President George Bush appointed his father and Bill Clinton to head American relief efforts, now totaling nearly $1 billion.

An unprecedented $5 billion has been pledged so far to help the countries affected by the tsunami, but Mr. Clinton says a further $4 to $5 billion will be needed.

Security was tight during the former presidents' visit to Aceh, where separatists have been battling the government since 1976.

Indonesia will attend a second round of peace talks with the Aceh rebels in Finland Monday.

Mr. Bush and Mr. Clinton later flew to the USS Fort McHenry, the navy ship ferrying water, food and clothing to the needy. The former presidents have also been to Thailand and plan to visit Sri Lanka and the Maldives.