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Angry France diverts Myanmar aid to Thailand

PARIS (Reuters) - The French navy has given up the idea of trying to deliver humanitarian aid directly to Myanmar and will instead divert its cargo to neighboring Thailand, the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The statement said the U.N. World Food Programme would take charge of the shipment and ensure it gets to victims of Cyclone Nargis that devastated Myanmar’s Irrawaddy delta earlier this month.

The 1,000 tonnes of aid, including drugs, food and tents, has been sitting in a French naval vessel off the Myanmar coast since May 17 waiting for a green light from the local junta to let them deliver it to the storm victims.

Although junta leaders on Friday agreed to admit foreign aid workers to the disaster zone they have refused to let foreign military vessels enter their waters, infuriating France.

“We are particularly shocked that the Burmese authorities have not allowed the 1,000 tonnes of aid ... to be directly disembarked and distributed,” the French statement said.

“This aid will provide food and access to drinking water for 100,000 people for 15 days and offer shelter to 60,000 victims as well as medical support,” it added.

A U.S. navy ship carrying aid is also off the Myanmar coast, and it too has been refused entry.

The French statement said “nothing justified” victims of a natural catastrophe being denied access to aid.

The May 2 cyclone left 134,000 people dead or missing and another 2.4 million destitute.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer