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Five More Flights Deliver Relief to Burma

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2008 – The United States sent another five military aircraft loaded with relief supplies to Burma today, and looks forward to the opportunity to send more, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today.

“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. Thirteen flights to date have carried 313,000 pounds of water, blankets, hygiene kits, plastic sheeting, mosquito netting and food, he reported.

“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,” he said.

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.

Morrell 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 U.S. military in providing relief to their storm-stricken people.”

Morrell called U.S. Pacific Command commander Navy Adm. Timothy J. Keating’s May 12 trip to Burma with the first relief flight a success that “opened the door to at least limited numbers of aid flights into Burma.”

Keating spelled out for Burmese leaders the extent of additional U.S. 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 today. “We have more than enough resources nearby, ready and standing by to provide even more help than we have provided to date.”

That’s why, Morrell said, the U.S. government has been working with other governments to persuade the Burmese leaders “to put their pride aside and let our troops come in with the aid that their people so desperately need.”

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

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