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May 11, 2008

ARF urges junta to speed up acceptance of disaster relief aid

Senior officials of the 27-member Asean Regional Forum on Friday urged Myanmar's military government to speed up the process of accepting humanitarian aid from abroad in the wake of that country's tropical cyclone disaster, reported Kyodo news agency.

The ARF officials ''stressed the importance of speeding up the arrangements to receive and deploy aid, material and relief personnel to the stricken areas,'' according to a statement issued by the Singaporean chair of the meeting.

In their one-day meeting here, the officials urged Myanmar to establish a coordinating mechanism to work with aid agencies. Such a mechanism could assess the damages and needs in the affected areas, while it could also facilitate the distribution of humanitarian assistance and entry and deployment of rescue and medical personnel and equipment, the statement said.

The statement reflects the international community's frustration with the difficulties of getting aid into Myanmar due to visa regulations and other hindrances.

The statement said ARF members ''stand ready to help Myanmar in both its relief and reconstruction efforts.'' It said many ARF members have offered substantial assistance to Myanmar and are prepared to do more.

Official sources said Myanmar's ARF delegate briefed the meeting on the destruction wracked by last weekend's cyclone disaster.

The meeting was held to prepare for an annual gathering of ARF foreign ministers to be held in Singapore in July.

ARF includes the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations -- Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam -- plus members from outside the region such as the United States, Russia, the European Union, China, Japan, India, South Korea and North Korea.

More on Asean

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