US to Withdraw Naval Vessels from Burma After Aid Refused
By VOA News
04 June 2008
The U.S. military says it will withdraw its warships from the waters off Burma after the ruling military government refused to allow the ships to deliver relief supplies to the victims of last month's deadly cyclone.
In a statement released Wednesday, Admiral Timothy Keating, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, says the USS Essex and its support ships will leave Burma Thursday. Keating says the ships are leaving after the U.S. tried and failed more than a dozen times to convince the Burmese government to change its position.
The admiral says he is "both saddened and frustrated" to know the U.S. forces could have alleviated "the suffering of hundreds of thousands of people." Keating says the ships will return to Burma if the ruling generals change their minds.
The United Nations says about one million Burmese are still lacking food and water one month after Cylcone Nargis hit, leaving at least 134,000 people dead or missing.
Elizabeth Byrs, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'s humanitarian assistance agency, says aid groups have managed to reach 1.3 million people in the worst hit areas of the Irrawaddy Delta. But she says relief is still generally spotty and insufficient.
The spokeswoman notes that not all foreign aid workers are getting the access they need. She urged Burma's military government to pick up the pace for clearance of all international non-governmental organization workers.