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Myanmar rejects US, UN pressure on aid

world Updated: May 13, 2008 14:08 IST
AFP
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Myanmar's military rulers on Tuesday rejected growing international pressure to accept aid workers, insisting against all the evidence that it had the emergency cyclone relief effort under control.

Even as US President George W Bush and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon voiced their fury at the country's generals, and aid agencies again warned that time was running out, the regime remained defiant about letting in outsiders.

"The nation does not need skilled relief workers yet," Vice Admiral Soe Thein said in the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece for the military which has ruled the nation with an iron grip for nearly half a century.

He said the needs of the people following the storm, which has left around 62,000 dead or missing since ripping through the southern Irrawaddy delta on May 2, "have been fulfilled to an extent".

But aid agencies tell a starkly different story, warning that as every day passes without sufficient food, water and shelter, as many as two million people are at risk of adding to the already staggering death toll.

Just hours after the United States sent its first aid plane into the country since the tragedy, following days of negotiations, Bush said the world should "be angry and condemn" the junta.

"Either they are isolated or callous," he said. "There's no telling how many people have lost their lives as a result of the slow response."

The United States has long been one of the most vocal critics of the regime, repeatedly tightening sanctions on Myanmar over its refusal to shift towards democracy or release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

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