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US Relief Flight for Burma Still Waiting for Approval, First UN Aid Flight Arrives

The United States says it is still waiting for Burma's military government to allow a U.S. military plane to deliver emergency aid to survivors of last week's cyclone that killed more than 22,000 people.

Earlier Thursday, a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, said Burma had granted approval for the relief delivery, but later in the day approval for U.S. military C-130s loaded with relief goods was less certain.

The U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Eric John, says he does not know whether the decision was rescinded or if there was a miscommunication.

Getting aid into military-ruled Burma has been extremely difficult as the Burmese government has been slow to give clearance for planes to land in the tightly-controlled country.

The first United Nations aid flight arrived in the country today after facing delays.

The U.N. World Food Program says the flight from Italy arrived and three others are expected to follow Thursday. A small U.N. disaster team has also been cleared to enter the country today.

International leaders have been urging Burmese rulers to allow relief workers and supplies into the country to assist one million people left homeless by Cyclone Nargis. China's foreign ministry issued a statement today calling on Burma to "cooperate with the international community" in the recovery efforts.

Beijing says it will contribute $4 million to fund the relief efforts, in addition to its initial pledge of one million dollars.

Officials say 42,000 people are listed as missing following the storm. The top U.S. diplomat in Burma, Charges d'Affaires Shari Villarosa, warned Wednesday that the death toll from Nargis may reach 100,000.

The ruling military junta has welcomed international relief efforts, but has not eased visa and customs procedures. The U.S. and other Western countries have been critical of Burma's government, which has in turn accused the U.S. of trying to subvert its rule.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters and AFP