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Burma Rebuffs Thai Offer of Foreign Experts for Cyclone Relief


The U.S. military sent five more planeloads of relief supplies to Burma Wednesday, but Thailand's prime minister said after a visit to the storm-ravaged country that, contrary to what foreign aid experts say, its military rulers believe they have the situation under control. Burma raised its official death toll from the storm to 38,000 Wednesday. But, the Red Cross says Cyclone Nargis may have affected as many as 2.5 million people in Burma, and international groups say death toll could end up being more than 100,000. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The United States has sent nearly 90 metric tons of relief supplies on a total of eight flights in recent days. But officials say flight clearances are coming only on a daily basis, and Burmese leaders have not accepted the offer of large-scale aid deliveries by air and sea.

Pentagon Spokesman Bryan Whitman said Wednesday he has seen no indication the aid provided so far is being hoarded by the Burmese military government, as some reports have charged.

But Whitman says it is "more challenging" to determine exactly where the supplies are going once they are taken off the aircraft at the Rangoon airport.

Meanwhile, Thailand's Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej returned from a brief visit to Rangoon Wednesday, saying Burmese leaders "are sure that they can solve their problems."

The prime minister told reporters Burmese leaders might accept more relief supplies, but do not want any foreign aid experts in their country.

Still, the European Union's Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Louis Michel, said he hopes that position changes.

Michel said he does not condemn Burma's leaders, but hopes they agree to make use of the disaster relief professionals the international community can provide. He said they work under the principle of impartiality, independence and neutrality.

Burma's military leaders have closed their country to most international contact for decades, and U.S. officials have said they are "paranoid" about allowing foreigners in now.

Meanwhile, Burma is getting heavy rain, and forecasters say it could get worse in the coming days as another storm passes through. But they do not expect it to be as bad as the cyclone was last week.

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