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S.Korea Red Cross plans massive rice aid for North
SEOUL, Aug 14 (Reuters) - South Korea's Red Cross can give as much as 100,000 tonnes of rice to flood-ravaged North Korea in a one-time aid package, its president said on Monday.

Relations between the two Koreas soured after North Korea defied international warnings and fired seven missiles on July 5. South Korea on Friday offered a one-time aid package worth $10 million to help its neighbour cope with massive floods in July.

Han Wan-sang said in an interview with KBS radio he hoped South and North Korean Red Cross officials would hold talks soon about the aid plan so that shipments can begin next week.

When asked whether that would include as much as 100,000 tonnes of rice, Han said: "Yes, that would be a basis."

Three major storms hit North Kora last month, causing floods that killed at least 151 people, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. A pro-North Kora paper put the death toll at 549 with 295 missing.

The flooding damaged farms and experts said the loss of crops could push the state, which already battles food shortages, to famine. The extent of the damage is not known because the secretive North Kora has limited inspections by aid groups.

Pyongyang had turned down a previous offer of help by South Korea's Red Cross made last month but a North Korean official later said help from the South would be not be refused if it came with no strings attached.

South Korea, a major supplier of aid to the North, last month cut off its regular food aid after the North Korean missile launch, saying it could resume the aid if Pyongyang returned to stalled talks on ending its nuclear weapons programme.

Seoul's food assistance to the North last year was 500,000 tonnes of rice.
MGR Archive 15.8.2006
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