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'India can help Myanmar in a better way than US'

As a neighbour to cyclone-ravaged Myanmar, India can help Yangon in a much better way than the United States, American First Lady Laura Bush has said.

world Updated: May 06, 2008 08:40 IST

As a neighbour to cyclone-ravaged Myanmar, India can help Yangon in a much better way than the United States, American First Lady Laura Bush has said.

Speaking at a news conference at White House, the wife of US President George Bush said that Myanmar's military junta might accept help from New Delhi "more readily", even as she urged India and some other nations to "use their influence to encourage a democratic transition" in that country.

"I think India can help. India is close on the border there. I think there are a lot of ways they could help and get help there quickly, and maybe the Burmese government would accept it more readily from the Indian government than they do from the US government", she said.

"I hope that the military will realise they have to accept aid from everybody they can possibly accept it from. And maybe that will be the something good that can come out of this terrible destruction," she said.

Stating that the "sanctions" were the "only kind of pressure the United States can put on Burma", the first lady said: "certainly we hope that India, for instance, and other countries in the neighbourhood can step (aid) up if they won't accept aid from the United States".

The US First Lady had yesterday accused the Myanmar military regime of failing to warn its citizens in time about the approaching cyclone Nargis which has left over 10,000 people dead according to the latest official figures.

Laura Bush, who has expressed deep concerns over human rights situation in Myanmar, also announced that President Bush will sign a legislation today that will confer the Congressional Honour of Medal on the NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house-arrest for years now.

The Bush administration had initially earmarked some $ 250,000 for the humanitarian disaster but it is likely that more funding is anticipated.

"I think in front of their own people and in front of the world, if they (Myanmar) don't accept aid from the US and from all the rest of the international community that wants to help the people of Burma, than that is just another way that the military regime looks so cut off and so unaware of what the real needs of their people are," Laura said.

In response to military regime's continued repression, the President has instructed the US Treasury Department to freeze assets of Burmese state-owned companies that are held in US banks, she said.

"This adds to actions last year to expand US sanctions against Burma's regime and to tighten sanctions against its top leaders," the first lady said.

"We thank the European Union, Canada and Australia for joining the United States in imposing similar restrictions, and we appeal to China, India, and Burma's fellow ASEAN members to use their influence to encourage a democratic transition," she said.

Insisting that Myanmar's ruling generals "have had their chance to implement the good government", Laura Bush said "the constitutional referendum they have planned should not be seen as a step towards freedom, but rather as a confirmation of the unacceptable status quo".

On being asked about the President signing legislation to award Suu Kyi the Congressional gold medal, she said: " The president will sign the legislation tomorrow.

"The congressional legislation that awards Aung San Suu Kyi the Congressional Medal of Honour. I think it's just another way, like the Senate and the House caucuses on Burma, that let the people of Burma know that the United States is standing with them," she added.