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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
N Korea accepts US aid for blast
South Korean Red Cross volunteers prepare aid supply kits in Seoul, 25 April 2004,
Washington has pledged $100,000 through the Red Cross
North Korea has accepted a US offer of aid for victims of last month's deadly train blast, according to a senior official.

Washington has pledged $100,000 through the Red Cross.

The figure is relatively small given the damage caused by the explosion in Ryongchon, but it is seen as symbolic.

North Korean envoy to the UN, Han Song-ryol, said the assistance could help improve bilateral relations.

Mr Han said the money was intended for urgently needed supplies.

"We already have enough medical staff and what is urgently needed now are medicine and medical equipment.

Children in the Peoples Hospital in Sinujiu, 25 April 2004

More than 150 people were killed and 1,300 injured in the 22 April accident in Ryongchon, near the border with China.

North Korean officials said the blast happened when electric cables ignited explosive chemicals and oil that were being transported on a passing train

The country's ill-equipped hospitals have struggled to treat the injured, many of whom were badly burned or blinded.

Many other countries have responded to the accident, including South Korea, Russia, China, Australia, Germany and Japan. Aid packages loaded with everything from noodles to medical kits have been arriving by ship, plane and truck.

But Mr Han said the US money could also serve another purpose.

"The fundamental problems lying between the United States and North Korea are (mutual) mistrust and misunderstanding," he said. "If the two countries are able to build up trust through this kind of contact, it would help improve bilateral relations."

US President George W Bush once described North Korea as part of an "axis of evil" and the two countries are engaged in a long-running row over Pyongyang's nuclear programme.

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