U.N. Chief Urges Myanmar to Allow Cyclone Aid

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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in Myanmar on a mission to persuade the country's military government to allow a large-scale international aid effort for the victims of the cyclone.

Ban was first flown by helicopter to a village called Kyondah, where he spoke to a few of the 500 or so people huddled in blue tents.

"I'm very upset by what I've seen," he said afterward.

Kyondah is located in the Irrawaddy Delta region, where most of the 78,000 deaths from Cyclone Nargis occurred. An additional 56,000 are officially listed as missing.

In the country's largest city, Yangon, Ban told an audience at a pagoda that he was bringing a message of hope.

"The United Nations and all the international community stand ready to help to overcome the tragedy," the secretary-general said.

In a meeting with Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein, Ban stressed the need to speed up delivery of humanitarian aid. In contrast to reports of appalling conditions in the delta, Thein Sein told Ban that the relief phase of the government's operation was ending and the focus had shifted to reconstruction, a U.N. official at the talks said, requesting anonymity for reasons of protocol.

The latest report from the International Red Cross said rivers and ponds in the delta's Bogalay area were full of corpses and that many people in remote areas had received no aid.

Ban said mutual trust was needed between Myanmar and the international community, which was prepared to send in planes and helicopters to help, the official said.

Myanmar is still reluctant to accept more than a handful of experienced foreign rescue and disaster relief workers.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press.

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