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U.N. to Resume Aid Shipments to Myanmar

Officials Reject Calls to Allow Aid Workers

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The U.N. said it would resume aid flights to cyclone-stricken Myanmar on Saturday, after the World Food Program suspended shipments because the country's military regime seized vital supplies.

On Friday, a planeload of high-energy biscuits and other supplies sent by the WFP was impounded by Myanmar's military, which has said it is grateful for the aid, but has insisted on distributing the relief supplies to the survivors of the cyclone that hit the country's Irrawaddy delta region a week ago.

WFP chief spokeswoman Nancy Roman said Friday that negotiations are continuing to release two planeloads of high-energy biscuits impounded by Myanmar.

After that cargo was confiscated, World Food Program spokesman Paul Risley said shipments would be suspended until the situation could be resolved.

Risley said that Myanmar's refusal to allow international aid workers into the country was "unprecedented in modern humanitarian relief efforts."

A U.N. weather agency is forecasting heavy rains next week in Myanmar.

The official death toll from Saturday's cyclone and tidal surge stands at nearly 23,000. But officials fear it will go much higher, with the lack of safe food and water.

U.S. planes packed with relief supplies are standing by in Thailand, awaiting permission from Myanmar to fly in.

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Myanmar's isolationist junta said in a statement Friday that it is grateful for the international assistance, but it wants to distribute the aid itself.

The country's military rulers have yet to issue visas for aid workers. One plane carrying relief aid was sent back because it had a search-and-rescue team and reporters on board.

State media in Myanmar said 42,019 were missing from Cyclone Nargis, which hit the country's Irrawaddy delta Saturday. Shari Villarosa, who heads the U.S. Embassy in Yangon, said the number of dead could exceed 100,000 because of illnesses.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press