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UN Opens Thai Staging Base for Burma Relief


The United Nations opened a staging area at an airport in Thailand's capital Saturday to deliver relief aid to cyclone survivors in neighboring Burma.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was on hand to open the hub at Bangkok's Don Mueang airport just one day after meeting with Burma's junta about relief efforts.

On Friday, Mr. Ban said Burma's top leader agreed to allow all foreign aid workers into the country to help with relief efforts. Burma's military government had refused to allow most foreign aid workers to enter the country and stage a full scale relief effort.

Meanwhile, Burma is holding Saturday a second round of a constitutional referendum in areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis on May 3.

The military government had delayed the referendum in the main city of Rangoon, and areas of the Irrawaddy Delta.

Voting went ahead as scheduled in the rest of the country a week after the storm hit, prompting an outcry from the international community.

The government has already announced that voters overwhelmingly approved the draft constitution, which it says will lead to general elections in 2010. Opposition and human rights groups say it will only strengthen the military's control.

Mr. Ban will attend a donor conference in Rangoon Sunday with other U.N. officials and representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Burmese government has asked for $11 billion in foreign assistance.

Burmese leaders say the cyclone that hit May 3 killed an estimated 78,000 people, and that 56,000 others are still missing.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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