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UN Aid Arrives in Burma but Military Gov't Slow to Approve Major Relief Efforts

  • VOA News

United Nations relief is arriving in Burma, but the country's military government is still limiting distribution to the more than one million people made homeless by cyclone Nargis.

Four UN supply planes were allowed to land in Burma's capital, Rangoon Thursday. The help is trickling in five days after the cyclone slammed into Burma, killing about 23-thousand people and leaving 42-thousand missing.

But UN humanitarian chief John Holmes says he is disappointed with the Burmese government's delays and says the situation is becoming increasingly desperate.

The United Nations said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is trying to talk to Senior General Than Shwe directly to facilitate access by foreign relief workers.

After days of negotiating, Burma has approved visas for just four UN aid officials. The government also is allowing some Red Cross workers into the country.

US Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad says the United States is outraged by Burmese leaders' delays in accepting foreign assistance.

The US Navy and military say they can deliver supplies by ship and air, but Burma has not approved the help.

Foreign countries say Burma's secretive government has been slow to grant access to aid workers and relief planes carrying high-energy biscuits, medicine and other supplies.

China, one of Burma's few allies, urged the country today to "cooperate with the international community" in the recovery efforts. But Beijing also warned the international community against politicizing the issue of aid to disaster victims in Burma.

The UN secretary general also urged the Burmese government to postpone Saturday's constitutional referendum in order to focus all its available resources on cyclone recovery efforts.

The United Nations says it has received more than 32 million dollars in international relief pledges.

After the cyclone submerged entire villages and wiped out roads, power lines and other infrastructure, Burma's leaders made a rare appeal for foreign support. But they have since been slow to accept the flood of offers.

US and other officials warn the death toll from the cyclone could reach 100-thousand people. The UN says water polluted by bloating corpses and other contaminants has caused outbreaks of diarrhea, malaria, respiratory infections and other diseases.

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