Friday, May 9, 2008

US Senate demands Myanmar junta allow foreign aid

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The US Senate has passed a resolution demanding that cyclone-devastated Myanmar's military rulers lift restrictions on delivery of foreign relief aid, congressional aides said Thursday.

The resolution, adopted unanimously late Wednesday, urged the Southeast Asian state's military generals to "immediately lift restrictions" on delivery of humanitarian assistance and allow "free and unfettered access" to US and other disaster aid response teams.

The resolution proposed by, among others, Democratic Senator John Kerry and Republican Senator Dick Lugar said Congress was ready to approve additional funds, beyond existing emergency international disaster aid resources, to help the people of Myanmar.

As the death toll estimates near 100,000, more than one million homeless in Myanmar were battling to stave off disease and hunger, with the military government still limiting foreign assistance six days after a massive cyclone.
The United States, one of the junta's most vocal critics, announced it was not sending an aid flight after earlier saying it was, adding to the sense of confusion and frustration over the international relief effort.

An official from the US government aid arm USAID said that some US supplies have already been sent to Myanmar through the United Nations.
The White House announced Tuesday that it was offering three million dollars more in aid to the secretive and impoverished country, on top of an initial emergency allocation of 250,000 dollars.
It also said that it was prepared to send four US Navy ships, laden with emergency relief supplies like blankets and water purification tablets, to Myanmar. The vessels were off Thailand's coast in a disaster-response exercise.

Aid groups said Myanmar needs hundreds of planes to cope with Cyclone Nargis, which barrelled into the impoverished state last week, unleashing one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory.

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