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ASEAN-UN summit opens in Myanmar for more cyclone relief aid
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An international pledging conference, co-organized by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)and the United Nations (UN), opened at the Sedona Hotel here Sunday to seek further international financial aid commitment for Myanmar's cyclone aid relief and rehabilitation efforts.

Myanmar Prime Minister General Thein Sein, ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo delivered speeches at the conference also attended by delegates from 52 UN and ASEAN member states as well as those from 24 UN agencies, international financial institutions and non-governmental organizations totaling over 360.

The pledging conference came after Surin and Ban visited Myanmar during this week. Ban's two-day tour on Thursday-Friday had taken him to two cyclone-devastated areas in the Ayeyawaddy delta.

Ban called on the international community to extend more humanitarian assistance to Myanmar to make more commitments and help Myanmar resettle in post-disaster period.

At the conference, Thein Sein expressed welcome over the international aid and assistance rendered for the country's relief and rehabilitation efforts, reiterating that the country welcomes aid workers from all countries and the aid supplies be delivered by civil vessels to Yangon Port.

He estimated the damage and loss caused by the storm at 10.7 billion U.S. dollars with 5.5 million people affected.

The conference focused on immediate aid and then looked into medium- and long-term needs. The co-convenors called on the international communities to rise to the occasion and translate their solidarity and sympathy into concrete commitments to help the Myanmar people emerges from the tragedy and rebuild their lives.

During Ban's last meeting with Myanmar top leader Senior-General Than Shwe in Nay Pyi Taw, a breakthrough was brought about that Myanmar agreed to admit all countries' aid workers into cyclone-ravaged areas and join relief and resettlement efforts as well as to use Yangon International Airport as a logistic hub for distributing the aid supplies.

Earlier in the week, Surin came to Yangon with ASEAN's lead in coordinating and liaising with the UN system and international community in assisting Myanmar to recover from cyclone Nargis following a decision at Monday's Special Meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers in Singapore to establish an ASEAN-led coordinating mechanism, chaired by Surin.

The task force, which is to channel international aid to Myanmar, is sending some 270 relief personnel to the cyclone-ravaged country and members of the team will visit Myanmar cyclone-hit areas immediately to make assessment and determine the degree of destruction before extending the necessary relief assistance.

Deadly tropical cyclone Nargis, which occurred over the Bay of Bengal, hit five divisions and states -- Ayeyawaddy, Yangon, Bago, Mon and Kayin on May 2 and 3, of which Ayeyawaddy and Yangon inflicted the heaviest casualties and massive infrastructural damage. The storm has killed 77,738 people and left 55,917 missing and 19,359 injured according to updated death toll.

(Xinhua News Agency May 25,2008)

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