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Burma Accepts Aid for Cyclone Victims

Burma's military government has told foreign officials and aid organizations that it will accept their help in recovering from Saturday's devastating cyclone.

However, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Elisabeth Byrs, says it still is not clear how aid can be delivered to victims. A U.N. official on Monday estimated that several hundred-thousand people will need drinking water, shelter and other assistance.

The United Nations Children's Fund already has deployed several teams in Burma to assess victims' needs, and the International Red Cross has begun providing some food, water and shelter.

The United States and several European (Britain, Germany, Norway, Sweden) and Asian (India, Japan, Singapore, Thailand) countries have offered assistance. The European Union has pledged $3 million for disaster relief efforts.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Monday that the United Nations is committed to providing whatever assistance Burma needs.

Mr. Ban said he is very much alarmed by news of the rising death toll from the cyclone. His chief of staff met with Burma's ambassador to the U.N. Monday to discuss assistance. A U.N. disaster relief team has been mobilized and is ready to be sent to Burma.

Officials and aid workers have put out the call for plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, cooking equipment and mosquito nets.

A State Department spokesman said Monday the U.S. embassy in Burma has authorized the immediate release of $250,000 for disaster assistance. The spokesman said a disaster assistance response team is standing by and ready to go into Burma, but has not yet received permission from Burmese authorities.

The U.S. aid is being sent to the World Food Program and other aid groups, rather than directly to the military government in Burma, which is subject to U.S. sanctions.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP.