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Burma Accuses Red Cross of Helping Rebels


Burma's military government is accusing the International Committee of the Red Cross - ICRC of having secret ties to insurgent groups in Burma.

The country's New Light of Myanmar newspaper quotes the president of Burma's Women's Affairs Federation, Than Than Nwe, as saying that the ICRC's activities with "clandestine insurgents" harms the country's stability.

Than Than Nwe also the wife of Prime Minister Soe Win accuses the ICRC of only choosing to visit prisoners who are on lists for anti-government groups.

She also rejects a recent critical report by the ICRC that accuses Burma of serious abuses against civilians and prisoners.

An ICRC spokeswoman told the Associated Press that "transparent" contacts with anti-government groups are just a part of the group's work as a neutral intermediary. The spokeswoman said the ICRC always works with all parties in a conflict.

Meanwhile, two top European Union officials urged Burma's military government to lift its restrictions against the ICRC and voiced concern regarding the recent report.

EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel urged Burmese officials to comply with international law. He and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner called on Burma to re-start dialogue with the ICRC.

The rare critical report by the ICRC says the government restricts its workers from taking independent field trips to sensitive areas and visiting prisons. The ICRC seldom condemns governments publicly, preferring to relay its concerns through private channels.

Burma has been ruled by a military government since 1962.

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