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ASEAN to Send Emergency Response Team to Burma

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is preparing to send a 200-member emergency response team to Burma's cyclone-ravaged Irrawaddy delta.

ASEAN's Secretary-General, Surin Pitsuwan, says the team will deploy on Thursday, to assess the damage caused by Cyclone Nargis.

The announcement came as U.S. Navy ships prepared to leave waters off Burma's coast, because the country's military government has refused to let them deliver relief supplies to cyclone survivors.

U.S. Admiral Timothy Keating said Wednesday that the USS Essex and its support ships will move Thursday, but will return if Burma's generals change their minds.

The French navy also has given up efforts to send aid and is heading out of the area.

Burmese state media have said the government rejected the U.S. helicopters because it feared an invasion.

Despite its suspicion of foreign governments, Burma's government has accepted some outside support.

The White House says the U.S. has provided more than $26 million in assistance, and completed 106 airlifts of emergency relief. Other countries are also donating supplies.

But the United Nations says about one million Burmese still do not have food or water one month after Cyclone Nargis left at least 134,000 people dead or missing

A spokeswoman for the U.N.'s humanitarian agency says aid groups have reached 1.3 million people. That is about half the number of people in need.

An official with the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization says Burma's farmers have not returned to their rice paddies to prepare for the planting season, because they lack adequate food and shelter. He says if rice is not planted soon, Burma will suffer serious food shortages.

The organization says 16 percent of Burma's rice paddies were seriously damaged by the cyclone.

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