EU aid chief presses for visas on Myanmar mercy mission

16th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

The top aid official pressed authorities in Myanmar to grant visas and freedom of movement to aid workers.

16 May 2008

BRUSSELS - The European Union's top aid official on Thursday pressed authorities in Myanmar to grant visas and freedom of movement to aid workers, officials in Brussels said.

EU aid commissioner Louis Michel held a "positive first meeting" with Myanmar's minister of social welfare at which he asked the Myanmar government to grant 30-day visas to aid experts from the European Commission and six-month multiple-entry visas to workers from European aid agencies, Michel's spokesman said.

He also urged the Myanmar authorities to allow foreign and local aid workers to move about freely in the country and to open the Pathein military air base to emergency traffic, the spokesman said.

Following the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and reports that authorities were blocking access to aid workers, Michel announced on Monday that he would personally fly to the stricken country to urge the government to open its borders.

He left Brussels on Tuesday evening, barely hours after the Myanmar regime granted him a fast-track visa.

On arrival, he held meetings with EU ambassadors to Myanmar and with representatives of international aid organizations, and visited a small refugee camp 40 kilometres from Yangon, his spokesman said.

He also requested meetings with Myanmar's prime minister and foreign minister, and asked permission to visit the storm-battered Irrawaddy delta, all on Friday.

The requests "are being examined" by the authorities, but no decision has yet been made, Michel's spokesman said.

Relations between the EU and Myanmar are strained by the former's condemnation of, and sanctions against, the latter's military regime.

Michel has repeatedly stressed that his visit is purely humanitarian and has no political sub-text.

[dpa / Expatica]

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