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Page last updated at 12:44 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 13:44 UK

Burma: 'humanitarian catastrophe'

David Miliband MP
David Miliband MP, Foreign Secretary

Interviewed on the Politics Show the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, said that the British ambassador's report from Rangoon overnight had painted "a very grim picture":

"I would be amazed if there hadn't been about 100,000 people who've died already. Although I do not think that is a confirmed figure, as I say I would be amazed if it does not reach that number.

"But what's more, hundreds of thousands more are at risk and a natural disaster is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe of genuinely epic proportions in significant part because of what I would describe as the malign neglect of the regime."

Jon Sopel asked David Miliband why Britain did not ignore the Burmese regime and drop aid directly to victims of the cyclone:

"All of the development experts say that that's not a very effective way of delivering aid.

"It might be the absolute last resort but all of the people who are real experts in this area, humanitarian fighters who... fighters is the wrong word ... humanitarian experts and aid workers who make all the difference on the ground are clear that that is very much the third, fourth, fifth or even sixth best solution.

"It's a last resort and what counts is to try to get the sort of movement that you've seen on the clips before this interview, of trucks and of aeroplanes actually delivering not just mosquito nets but food, critically rice, also tents to provide some shelter, and also obviously basic medical equipment. But that all needs people as well as material."

Prescott's description accurate?

Asked whether he recognised John Prescott's description of a moody and sometimes sulking Gordon Brown, as quoted in today's Sunday Times, Mr Miliband said: "[Brown's] He's someone who is absolutely passionate about the values that he believes in.

"He is clear about the goals that we are pursuing and yes, as he said last week, he does get into the detail but that is important.

"You need a Prime Minister who is able to have command of the detail as well as the bigger picture, and so I don't recognise the portrait that John Prescott has set out, and that's why I think the government has to get on with the job because what's fatal in politics is if you forget what you are actually meant to be doing, which is working on behalf of the people who elected you."

Please note BBC Politics Show must be credited if any part of Politics Show transcripts are used.

NB:The transcripts were typed from a recording and not copied from original scripts.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for their accuracy.

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