US military plane permitted to deliver aid to Myanmar

May 10th, 2008 - 3:00 am ICT by admin  

Washington, May 10 (DPA) A US military aircraft has been given permission to deliver emergency aid to Myanmar in the wake of a cyclone that has left tens of thousands dead and thousands of others without adequate food or water supplies, the White House said Friday. A C-130 cargo plane has been granted access by Myanmar’s military regime to deliver supplies Monday, said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the National Security Council.

“We hope this is the beginning of major US assistance to the Burmese people,” Johndroe told reporters at President George W. Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.

The ruling junta has not approved visas for a group of US aid workers seeking to enter the country to assess the situation and determine what aid is needed and the approval is only for one flight, Johndroe said.

“But one flight is much better than no flights. And we’re going to keep on working to provide as much assistance as possible in the coming days, weeks and months. Because they’re going to need our help for a long time,” he said.

Asked what had prompted the Myanmar government to overcome its reluctance to foreign aid, Johndroe said there had been ongoing discussions with the country’s rulers and though he could point to no specific thing, he said, “Clearly the junta has determined that the magnitude of this disaster requires additional assistance, and so we’re pleased to be able to offer that.”

Diplomatic efforts to pressure the military junta to allow in more aid are continuing. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday talked with the Chinese and Indian foreign ministers, urging them to “use whatever leverage they have with that top decision-making layer in the Burmese regime to get them to reverse the course that they have been on,” and allow in further international assistance, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday.

The US would work with nongovernmental organizations on the ground to determine what supplies were most urgently needed in determining what would be carried on the flight, he said.

More than 22,000 people have been killed and 41,000 are missing with more than a million in urgent need of assistance since Cyclone Nargis struck Saturday, the country’s government has said.

But unofficial estimates say the final death toll could climb as high as 100,000 once the victim tally is known from outlying areas, and if disease is allowed to set in.

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