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US Says Helicopters Still Available to Help Burma's Cyclone Survivors

The U.S. military says its offer to help airlift aid to Cyclone Nargis survivors in Burma still stands, even though U.S. ships have moved away from the Burmese coast.

Lieutenant-General John Goodman who heads the U.S. relief operation for Burma told reporters Friday that Burmese military leaders have yet to respond to the U.S. offer of relief made three weeks ago. Goodman says the U.S. military has offered to allow Burmese officials on board U.S. helicopters and to tell them where to fly.

The U.S. has offered Burma 22 helicopters and says that it can get aid to a majority of hungry and homeless survivors in a matter of days.

More than a month has passed since Nargis tore across Burma's Irrawaddy Delta. The United Nations says only half of the countries estimated two million cyclone victims have received some food, water, shelter or health care from aid agencies.

Meanwhile, Burma's military government lashed out at foreign media outlets today for airing what it calls false reports on the devastation caused by the cyclone.

An editorial in the state run newspaper, New Light of Myanmar, accused "self-seekers" of filming "made-up stories" in storm-affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta, then passing them on to foreign journalists.

It says the news agencies are trying to tarnish Burma's image and mislead the world.

Cyclone Nargis killed 78,000 people and left another 56,000 missing when it struck the delta on May 2. The United Nations says a half-million people have been living in camps since the storm hit.

Burmese authorities have allowed only a limited number of foreign aid workers into the country and have barred most from entering areas hit hardest by the cyclone.

Amnesty International says the military has been evicting some cyclone survivors from their temporary shelters and forcing them back to their homes, even if they were destroyed. It also has reported instances of the military forcing people to work for food aid.

Ky Luu, an official with the U.S. Agency for International Development, said Thursday that if evictions are taking place, people may be forced back into areas where international disaster experts may not be able to work.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.