French ship near Myanmar awaiting permission to land 1,500 tons of aid

A French navy ship approached Myanmar's cyclone-devastated Irrawaddy delta Saturday, but was still awaiting permission from the ruling military regime to dock and unload 1,500 tons of aid. The junta said Friday that the official death toll from the storm has nearly doubled to 78,000 with 55,917 missing. Aid groups have said the toll is probably about 128,000, with many more deaths possible from disease and starvation unless help is provided quickly to some 2.5 million survivors. But despite possessing little means to deliver aid quickly and efficiently, the isolationist government of Myanmar - one of the poorest countries in the world - insists it does not want international aid groups to manage the relief operations. It says all foreign aid must be delivered to the government, which will distribute it further. French defense and foreign ministry officials said the FSS Mistral, carrying 1,500 tons of food and medication, was expected reach Myanmar "sometime Saturday." They said the French government was "still in negotiations," even though the junta has so far refused to give authorization for it to dock, either in the delta or in Myanmar's largest city, Yangon.