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Published:May 25th, 2008 06:38 EST
Sunday Conference in Rangoon focuses on aid to Burma

Sunday Conference in Rangoon focuses on aid to Burma

By SOP newswire

About 50 countries have convened a donor conference in Rangoon to discuss pledging funds to help in parts of Burma devastated by Cyclone Nargis.

The meeting began Sunday just hours after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived from China, where he was touring areas devastated by a powerful earthquake on May 12.

Many of the potential donors at the Rangoon conference say they want to see that Burma's military government honor its pledge to allow foreign aid workers into the country.

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 previously refused to allow most foreign workers to enter the country and stage a full scale relief effort.

Today's fundraising meeting is sponsored by the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  Burma has asked for $11 billion in foreign assistance.

On Saturday, the United Nations opened a staging area at an airport in Thailand's capital to deliver relief aid to neighboring Burma.

Burmese leaders say the cyclone that swept across southern Burma May third killed an estimated 78,000 people, and that 56,000 others are still missing.

Despite the devastation, Burma's military government held voting in a constitutional referendum Saturday in areas hit by the cyclone.

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 parts of the country a week after the storm hit, prompting an outcry from the international community.

The government said 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.

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