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Fri, May 16, 2008

Five More Flights Deliver Relief To Myanmar

Officials Rule Out Airdrop Without Gov't Approval

The United States sent another five military aircraft loaded with relief supplies to Myanmar Thursday, and looks forward to the opportunity to send more, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said.

Officials also stressed they'd only provide the level of help requested by the country's militaristic junta.
"We have seen an increase in the number of flights day to day that the Burmese government is permitting," Morrell said during a Pentagon news conference. (Editor's Note: Though officially known as "Myanmar" since 1989, many Western nations -- including the US -- still refer to the country by its original name of Burma.)

Thirteen flights to date have carried 313,000 pounds of water, blankets, hygiene kits, plastic sheeting, mosquito netting and food. "So we are certainly encouraging the Burmese government to continue to let those flights come in and, if possible, increase the number of flights that are coming in," Morrell added.

United Nations and nongovernmental organizations operating in Burma report that the Burmese military is transporting relief supplies to the stricken areas, Morrell said. "So far, the initial reports are that (the aid) is getting to those who need it," he said.

However, Morrell also reiterated Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' frustrations about the situation, noting that the secretary said it "would be a tragedy if the Burmese government were not to take advantage of the incredible generosity of the American people and the incredible capabilities of the US military in providing relief to their storm-stricken people."

Morrell called US Pacific Command commander Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating's May 12 trip to Myanmar with the first relief flight a success that "opened the door to at least limited numbers of aid flights into Myanmar."

Keating spelled out for Burmese leaders the extent of additional US military support ready to step in to help when given the green light.

"There is absolutely more we could do, if only the Burmese government would permit us to do it," Morrell said. "We have more than enough resources nearby, ready and standing by to provide even more help than we have provided to date."

Morrell said it is "out of the question" that the United States would unilaterally airdrop additional supplies without the government's go-ahead.

(Aero-News thanks Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service)



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