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|UN chief to send envoy to Burma
||UN chief to send envoy to Burma
(about 3 hours later)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he plans to send a senior official to urge Burma's military leaders to open up to foreign aid.
Mr Ban said he wanted UN aid chief John Holmes to accompany a food aid delivery to the cyclone-hit nation.
He also proposed a conference of nations prepared to pledge assistance.
UN figures now suggest that as many as 2.5 million people have been severely affected by Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma 12 days ago.
The latest Burmese official figures put the number of dead at almost 38,500, with 27,838 more missing, but the Red Cross warned as many as 128,000 could be dead.
A slow trickle of aid is now getting to survivors but aid agencies say it is nowhere near enough.
class="" href="/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7402105.stm">Burma 'backs new charter'
They say far more boats and trucks are needed to get the supplies to the communities that need them most - and far more expert personnel.
But fears of a second storm eased as forecasters said a tropical depression off Burma's coast had weakened and was unlikely to brew into a cyclone.
Meanwhile state media has announced that a new military-backed constitution was overwhelmingly approved in a referendum on 10 May.
The UN chief convened talks with donors and the Association of South East Asian Nations in New York on Wednesday.
Mr Ban said he "regretted" the UN had spent more time arranging rather than delivering help.
|Undercover reporter says aid is still in short supply in Burma||Undercover reporter says aid is still in short supply in Burma|
"Even though the [Burmese] government has shown some sense of flexibility, at this time it's far, far too short," he said.
Foreign experts are still being denied access to the worst-hit Irrawaddy Delta region.
Mr Holmes, the UN's head of humanitarian assistance, said that although more than 100 international UN aid workers were now in Burma, they were not being allowed beyond Rangoon.
In an apparent concession, the Burmese authorities have invited in 160 aid workers from neighbouring Bangladesh, China, India and Thailand.
But it is not clear whether they will be permitted to enter the worst-affected regions - and experts say they are a fraction of the number needed.
EXTENT OF THE DEVASTATION class="" href="/1/hi/uk/7389848.stm">See map and satellite images class="" href="/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7397794.stm">Resilience amid Burma catastrophe class="" href="/1/hi/world/europe/7398313.stm">Urgent EU mission
On Wednesday Thai leader Samak Sundaravej flew to Rangoon for talks with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein, but said the junta was adamant it needed no outside help.
"They insisted they can take care of their people and their country. They can manage by themselves," he said.
In Washington, Asean Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan said his organisation was trying to build a "coalition of mercy" to help fellow member Burma.
"We are trying to work around a very, very stiff resistance mentality and mindset that have been there for a long, long time," he told a forum.
Aid agencies have warned repeatedly that failure to help those without food, water and shelter could lead to a second - perhaps larger - wave of deaths.
A BBC correspondent in Burma said one devastated village - with one in four of its 400 homes left standing - had received just one bag of rice from the government.
Causeways running above the flooded paddy fields of the south were lined by families - often in makeshift shelters - huddling in the rain, our reporter said.
There are also more long-term considerations. About 85% of schools in the region have been severely damaged or destroyed, Unicef said, and unknown numbers of teachers had been killed or missing.
Help is needed to build temporary schools so that some semblance of normality can be returned to children's lives, the agency said.