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Pentagon Calls on Burma's Junta to Accept Aid


The Pentagon is calling on Burma's leaders to "put their pride aside" and allow more international help for victims of the cyclone that hit the country 12 days ago. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

At a news conference Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell expressed thanks for Burma's decision to accept some U.S. aid, but called on its leaders to allow more, including U.S. troops with disaster relief experience.

"Our government has been working with other governments in the region to try to persuade the Burmese military, the leadership of that nation, to put their pride aside and let our troops come in with the aid that their people so desperately need," he said.

As of Thursday, there had been 13 U.S. military flights from Thailand to Burma carrying 140 metric tons of water, tents, blankets and other relief supplies.

Morrell says the United States could be doing much more, but there is no plan to do anything without Burmese government permission.

"There has been no change in this department's position towards the prospect of unilateral airdrops into a sovereign country such as Burma," he said. "That is just not something that we are discussing at this time."

U.S. officials say they have been consulting with independent relief organizations working in Burma and with Burmese officials to decide what type of supplies to send. One official says personal hygiene kits have been added, and more food may be sent on future flights, if they are allowed.

The spokesman, Geoff Morrell, says it appears at least some of the aid is getting to the people who need it.

"We have to rely a lot on the U.N. and non-governmental organizations that are being permitted to operate in Burma," Morrell said. "And the reports we are getting back from them is that international relief supplies transported by the Burmese military have been arriving in disaster areas."

U.S. officials would like to deliver aid to Burma from several navy ships that have taken up positions in international waters off the Burmese coast. But Burma has not given permission for that.

Officials say the ships moved a bit to avoid the worst of a new storm moving through the area, but forecasters believe this storm will not have the intensity they had feared, which would have made the situation in Burma's storm-devastated areas even worse.

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