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UN: get aid into Myanmar quickly
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The United Nations humanitarian chief on Thursday underlined an urgency to get international aid into cyclone-hit Myanmar, warning of a "worse tragedy" if failing to do so.

"There's a real danger that an even worse tragedy may unfold if we cannot get the aid that's desperately needed in quickly," John Holmes, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told a UN briefing.

He said that while there had been a little bit of progress in gaining access to the country since he last briefed the press yesterday, much more was needed in terms of the granting of visas and easing of regulations, given the "increasingly desperate situation" on the ground.

"Frustrations have been growing that this humanitarian response is being held back because of difficulties of access in different ways," he said, noting that many visas are still pending.

"I do appeal very strongly indeed to the government of Myanmar both to step up their own relief efforts to help people on the ground and to change their attitude completely to the efforts that we are making to get these relief supplies in," he said.

He added that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is attempting to talk to Senior General Than Shwe to urge him to facilitate access.

Meanwhile, the UN chief said he has noted the government's decision to proceed with the constitutional referendum scheduled for May 10, while postponing it in some of the areas most affected by the cyclone.

"Due to the scope of the disaster facing Myanmar today, however, the secretary-general believes that it may be prudent to focus instead on mobilizing all available resources and capacity for the emergency response efforts," said a statement issued by Ban's press office.

(Xinhua News Agency May 9, 2008)

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