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North Korea thanks Caritas for 'no strings' aid
    The North Korean government has officially thanked Caritas Internationalis for generous aid to the country over the past five years.
    Duncan MacLaren, Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis, who went on a week's mission in North Korea last month, received a letter from Ri Si Hong of the Flood Damage Rehabilitation Committee, (FDRC), the N. Korean government commission to co-ordinate aid.
    "This is the first official act of gratitude from the government, a great step forward," Maclaren told Vatican missionary news agency Fides. "Caritas is very satisfied. Since 1995 we have gradually built up a relation of confidence with the local authorities".
    MacLaren explained that in North Korea aid agencies can only work in cooperation with government bodies.
    He said: "After five years of relief aid Caritas - the first NGO to intervene in the country following the 1995 floods - has earned the FDRC's total confidence. Thanks to the perseverance of Kathie Zellweger, of Caritas Hong Kong, the government is sure that we come only to improve the living conditions of the people and that we have no political intentions. Because we have their confidence we are allowed to visit our projects to verify the effects."
    At the recent meeting with the local authorities MacLaren asked for speedier visas procedure for Caritas workers. The main purpose of MacLaren's visit this time was to improve cooperation with the authorities.