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US offers helicopters to Burma as navy ships leave

Jun 6, 2008 (AFP)‚ US helicopters and small boats are still ready to help deliver cyclone aid to Burma, a US official said Thursday, after the regime rejected US navy ships laden with emergency supplies.

Four US Navy ships, which had idled off Burma’s coast since May 13, left for the Gulf of Thailand on Thursday after the ruling junta refused to accept aid from foreign militaries.

Lieutenant General John Goodman, commander of Marine forces Pacific, said that even though the USS Essex group was leaving, the United States was still ready to offer other equipment for the cyclone relief effort.

"The US maintains its offer to support the distribution efforts of the Burmese government and the international community," Goodman said in a statement.

"This distribution support includes the use of helicopters currently in Thailand, and if requested, the landing craft from the amphibious ships to assist the world community in the distribution of relief supplies to relieve suffering."

More than one month after the cyclone left 133,000 dead or missing, the United Nations estimates more than one million people still have not received any international assistance.

Burma has accused the United States of offering aid with unspecified "strings attached."

"Our offer has been without strings, and it has never included bringing US Navy ships into their ports," said Goodman. "Unfortunately those offers of support have yet to be accepted."

US military C-130 cargo planes are still delivering supplies to Yangon from Thailand, the statement said.

The United States has flown 116 flights delivering more than 2.2 million pounds of relief supplies, it added.

Goodman said Washington had repeatedly offered helicopters and surface craft to support the relief efforts in the devastated Irrawaddy Delta, where many villages are not reachable by road.


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