The Prime Minister said Australians should mark the national day of mourning in an appropriate way.

He said it was his intention to attend religious ceremonies of different faiths “particularly having regard to the extraordinary number of people of the Islamic faith who’ve lost their lives in this terrible disaster.”

Mr Howard is meeting world leaders in Jakarta this week to discuss co-ordinating the aid effort and rebuilding affected countries.

It is expected he will announce a boost to Australia’s aid contribution at the meeting.

Australia is promising up to $500 million worth of aid for projects to rebuild the devastated Aceh region of Indonesia.

Mr Howard will also hold bi-lateral talks with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and said the Defence Minister Robert Hill will inspect the work of Australian military personnel in Indonesia later this week.

Leaders and representatives from ASEAN’s 10 members will join with those from the United States, Japan, India and Australia at this week’s summit which has been organised by Indonesia.

The Prime Minister said the government would consider a call to forgive or place a moratorium on the debts of those countries affected by the disaster, but he had some reservations about the plan.

“We will consider any proposal that is put forward,” he said.

“I do, however, have some reservations about that and that is there is no guarantee that if you do it what is forgiven or what is the subject of a moratorium will end up going in aid, because the debts are not normally owed by people who need the assistance.

“They are usually owed by other organisations and you have no guarantee that if you provide a debt moratorium or debt forgiveness that that money ends up where it should.”

Mr Howard said he preferred Australian aid to be targeted and for Australians to have a role in determining where it went.

Mr Howard said nation states, rather than the United Nations, were best placed to provide the largest amount of aid in the quickest time.

“How (the UN distributes its aid) is a matter for the United Nations,” Mr Howard said.

“This is a situation where what works should be supported.

“I have only one interest and that is getting aid through to the people as quickly as possible and whoever can do that should do it … I don’t think this is a question of who should be running it, it’s a question of what works.”

Australians are at the forefront of the Disaster Victim Identification process, most of which is taking place outside Phuket.

Mr Howard paid tribute to Australians for their voluntary aid to tsunami victims, which has now reached more than $85 million.

He said 560 Australians in the areas affected by the tsunami are still unaccounted for, with grave concerns still held for 72.

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