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UN Secretary-General to Visit Cyclone-Hit Burma


United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel this week to Burma, where the government is under growing pressure to accept a full-scale international relief operation for cyclone survivors.

A U.N. spokeswoman says Mr. Ban is expected to arrive on Wednesday. U.N. officials say Burma's military leader, Than Shwe, has refused to accept the U.N. chief's telephone calls and has ignored two letters sent by Mr. Ban since Cyclone Nargis hit May third.

The top U.N. relief official, John Holmes, arrived in Burma's main city, Rangoon, Sunday, to press the military government to open the country to increased international assistance.

And a senior British official, Asia minister Mark Malloch-Brown said Sunday that a turning point in Burma's willingness to accept international assistance may be near. He did not elaborate.

Burmese state television said senior General Than Shwe made his first visit Sunday to areas affected by the disaster. It showed him touring camps of survivors on the outskirts of Rangoon. No meeting between the general and any visiting U.N. official has been announced.

Burma's official death toll from the cyclone is nearly 78,000, with nearly 56,000 more missing.

The Burmese government has accepted some international donations of relief supplies, but international aid officials say it is far short of the amount needed to prevent starvation and disease.

The aid group Save the Children is warning that thousands of children in Burma will starve to death in the next few weeks unless food is rushed to them.

The United States and France have ships in the area loaded with relief supplies, but Burma has refused to allow the cargo to be moved into the hard-hit Irrawaddy Delta region.

Southeast Asian foreign ministers are due to meet Monday in Singapore to improve regional cooperation to respond to the disaster. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is facing criticism for its delays in acting to support relief efforts.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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