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Germany

Merkel Urges UN Security Council Action on Burma

Chancellor Merkel has called for UN action to force Burma's rulers to let in relief for survivors of Cyclone Nargis. The World Food Program temporarily suspended aid but said two planes would deliver supplies Saturday.

Homeless families in a Burmese closter

Over a million people are thought to be in urgent need of help

The United Nations estimated Friday that the death toll could reach more than 100,000 in Burma, a dramatic increase in the estimate of the devastation in the 55 townships in the country's low-lying delta region delivered by Cyclone Nargis.

By contrast, Burma's military government has estimated 23,000 dead and 40,000 people still missing. An estimated 13 million people of Myanmar's population of 53 million live in areas hit by the cyclone.

Demanding that Burma ease entry restrictions on aid workers, she told German news agency DPA she would phone UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to ask the UN Security Council to meet on the crisis, as requested by France. The French move has been blocked by permanent member China, with the support of Indonesia and other countries, which said they did not want the issue politicized.

Aerial view

The Irrawaddy Delta, in the country's south, was devastated

"In such a situation, it is utterly inexplicable to me that the military government is not letting into the country the desperately needed relief that has been offered," she said in Berlin on Friday, May 9.

Merkel appealed to Burma's neighbors and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to use their influence on the country also known as Myanmar.

She said a "blockade" in the UN Security Council against discussion of the issue was "irresponsible."

"I strongly appeal to the government to meet its responsibility to its people and to let world aid into the entire disaster area," she said, adding she was shocked at the "appalling images of human suffering that have come here from Myanmar."

The victims needed rapid assistance that Germany was willing to provide along with others, she said.


Germany doubles aid

"The people in Myanmar need the aid now," Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in an extraordinary meeting of the ministry's humanitarian aid coordination committee on Friday.

A destroyed boat is seen in Yangon

The full extent of the damage is not yet known

Steinmeier said the damage done by Cyclone Nargis was likely to be even greater than that caused by the catastrophe caused by the devastating tsunami that upset Southeast Asia in 2004.

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul announced a doubling in emergency aid to the people of Burma to 2 million euros ($3.1 million). The aid would be channeled through relief organizations and not the Burmese government, she said, adding that some estimates said that up to 1.9 million people were in urgent need of assistance.


UN Food Program suspends deliveries

Also on Friday, the UN World Food Program said the military regime had confiscated all foreign aid entering the country. The organization suspended aid deliveries on Friday but hours later said two more planes with food and water would land in Burma on Saturday.

WFP spokesman Paul Risley said the organization stopped delivering assistance after the the last two deliveries of 38 tons' worth of aid had been stopped at the airport. He told the BBC that the aid was not reaching cyclone victims.

"The World Food Program has decided to send in two relief flights as planned [Saturday], while discussions continue with the Government of Myanmar on the distribution of the food that was flown in [Friday], and not released to WFP," Nancy E. Roman, WFP's communications director, said in a statement.

The White House welcomed news on Friday that it could send one military cargo plane carrying supplies that reach Burma on Monday.

"One flight is much better than no flights," said spokesman Gordon Johndroe, who told reporters US officials were trying to determine what supplies were most needed.

Earlier in the day, the German Red Cross had said it would continue efforts to dispatch a water purification plant, along with German aid experts, to the devastated area.

A destroyed car

France and Germany hope to push the UN into action

Spokeswoman Svenja Koch said the organization planned to fly the equipment, which can provide 15,000 people with drinking water, from Berlin next week. She said that there had been an official request from the Red Cross in Burma and that this might make it easier to gain permission.

On Thursday, Steinmeier summoned the Burmese ambassador to the Foreign Ministry.

The minister told ambassador U Tin Win that Berlin was "deeply concerned" and that "the government in Myanmar is still standing in the way of effective cooperation in organizing assistance."

Cyclone Nargis left Burma's largest city, Yangon, without electricity and water after it struck a week ago, causing untold damage to the fragile infrastructure and food supply.

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