Laura Bush to Myanmar: ‘Let people of US help’


WASHINGTON (AFP) — First Lady Laura Bush implored Myanmar Wednesday to “let the people of the United States help” with emergency cyclone aid after the military junta barred US navy ships from providing relief supplies.

The wife of President George W. Bush refuted charges by the Myanmar state media that there were “strings attached” to the navy aid, and said it was vital for the reclusive government to allow the US ships laden with emergency supplies to sail near the worst-hit regions of Myanmar’s Irrawaddy Delta.

“No, there would be absolutely no strings attached with this aid,” Laura Bush said in an interview with the Voice of America, a US Congress-funded broadcaster that has a Burmese language service which can be heard in Myanmar.

She stressed that while official media has said the navy ships would not get permission to approach the Myanmar coast, “we have not heard that officially.

“And so I still want to urge the military rulers to let the United States, let the people of the United States help, because we can help in such a very successful way because of the equipment that we have that’s available.”

The United Nations estimates that only 500,000 of the 2.4 million affected by the storm are receiving international aid, more than two weeks after Cyclone Nargis left 133,000 dead or missing.

At least 40 US aid flights into Myanmar have brought critical disaster relief supplies into the country, Bush said, up from 31 as of Monday.

Myanmar’s military government remains willing to accept more US aid flights, the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

When asked about reports from aid organizations that some of the aid was siphoned off by the military, Bush said “Well, we just don’t know that.”

“I just want to urge the government of Burma to make sure people get this help,” she said, calling the country by its former name.

The New Light dismissed reports that survivors were not receiving adequate aid as “rumor storms created by certain western countries and national traitors … who are showing negative attitude to our nation and people.”

Bush last week renewed sanctions on the junta because of its “repression of the democratic opposition” in Myanmar, but stressed the move did not affect aid bound for cyclone victims.

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