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UN, ASEAN Launch Recovery Plan for Cyclone-Hit Areas in Burma

The United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have launched a recovery plan for areas of Burma hit by last year's devastating cyclone Nargis. Their representatives say Burma's military government has promised full cooperation on the plan.

The U.N. and ASEAN say $690 million is needed for a cyclone Nargis recovery aid plan for Burma.

The three-year plan was jointly prepared by representatives from the U.N., ASEAN and Burma.

It calls for community-based projects to rebuild livelihoods, houses, hospitals and schools destroyed by the massive storm.

U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Burma, Bishow Parajul, says, despite initial emergency aid, there are still many people in great need in Burma.

"'Building back better' means provision of seeds and agriculture tools and all, so they have their own farm and they can be self sufficient and stand on their own," said Parajul.

Parajul adds the UN has received $310 million in aid to Burma so far.

Many nations, including the United States, offered immediate assistance to Burma when cyclone Nargis in May ripped through its southern delta.

Burma's military-run government initially refused the help, leaving millions affected by the cyclone to fend for themselves.

An estimated 140,000 people died in the disaster. Critics say some of those people could have been saved if Burma's rulers would have accepted the emergency assistance.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan acknowledges Burma's generals initially made assistance difficult, but says they are now cooperating at the highest level on recovery plans.

"I think we have been reassured that whatever cooperation, whatever support that we need in order to move forward in the implementation ... we have been promised that we will get that," said Pitsuwan.

Despite Burmese rulers' change of heart in accepting outside aid, Pitsuwan says they do not expect to transform or change Burma. But he says they do hope the new level of confidence will lead to further flexibility in their cooperation.

Burma's military has ruled the country for more than 40 years, suppressing moves towards democracy and jailing dissidents.