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Burma Takes Diplomats on Tour of Cyclone-Ravaged Areas


Diplomats went on a controlled tour of Burma's storm-ravaged Irrawaddy delta Saturday following international complaints the ruling military is blocking aid groups from distributing relief supplies.

Burma's state media says the toll of dead and missing from cyclone Nargis has risen to more than 133,000. The toll, released Friday, almost doubles earlier Burmese figures.

U.S. President George Bush Saturday extended economic sanctions for another year on Burma's military junta, citing what he called its "large-scale repression of the democratic opposition." But Mr. Bush said the sanctions will not affect relief aid bound for cyclone victims.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown criticized the junta for what he called "inhuman" treatment of 2.5 million storm survivors.

French officials said Saturday they are in negotiations with Burma's leadership for permission to dock a navy ship Mistral loaded with supplies.

Both the United States and France have ships in the area and could deliver large amounts of aid, but Burma has refused to allow any relief to be moved into the hard-hit delta region directly from the sea.

France complained to the U.N. General Assembly Friday that Burma had refused to allow the ship to deliver humanitarian aid, while Burma's U.N. envoy accused France of sending a warship toward its coast.

The Burmese government has accepted some international donations of relief supplies. But it has refused other offers and allowed only limited involvement by foreign personnel in relief efforts.

Four U.S. military cargo planes carrying relief supplies were allowed to land in Rangoon this week.

The top United Nations official for humanitarian affairs, John Holmes, has been granted a visa to visit Burma beginning Sunday.

U.N. officials say Holmes will press Burma's leaders to accept more international assistance and step up relief efforts.

The storm has affected an estimated 2.5 million people and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says up to 40 percent of the storm's victims are children.

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