Britain announced Thursday it was granting $1.77 million in emergency relief for Kurds fleeing the civil war in Iraq and would begin airlifting tents and blankets to Turkey.

But Kurdish exiles based in Britain derided the grant as "an insult."Up to 3 million Kurds have fled their homes in northern Iraq after forces loyal to Saddam Hussein crushed the Kurdish insurgency.

The British aid announcement came soon after Prime Minister John Major sent messages to President Bush and European Community leaders urging a massive international effort to aid the Kurds.

The British media and some legislators have sharply criticized Major and Bush for failing to stop Iraq's bloody suppression of the Kurds, which has included indiscriminate attacks on civilians by helicopter gunships.

A Kurdish spokesman said he was offended at the $1.77 million offer.

"That amounts to 33 pence (58 cents) a person," said Latif Rashid of the Kurdistan Front, a coalition of Kurdish political parties. "That won't buy them a cup of tea."

Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of State John Kelly, head of the State Department's Near Eastern and Asian Affairs Division, met with Iraqi opposition figures at an undisclosed location in Washington.

The meeting, the first of its kind, lasted about an hour, and the "Iraqi participants expressed their concern for the events that are occurring in Iraq and the suffering of the Iraqi people," the State Department said in a statement late Wednesday.

"They expressed their support for the territorial integrity of Iraq and the non-dismemberment of the country, as well as support for democracy in Iraq," the department said. "The majority of the meeting focused on the humanitarian aspect of the situation in Iraq."

Identities of the Iraqis were not disclosed for fear Saddam might hurt their families, officials said. The group consisted of Muslims - all living outside Iraq.