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U.N. Chief Details Diplomatic Efforts on Myanmar Crisis

Two major natural disasters have hit Myanmar and China in as many weeks. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discusses the two crises, and diplomatic efforts to get the Myanmar government to quicken its pace of allowing in foreign assistance.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Amid growing international pressure on the Myanmar government to permit foreign relief workers into the country, we hear from the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon.

    Ray Suarez spoke with him this evening.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Mr. Secretary-General, welcome back to the program.

  • BAN KI-MOON, United Nations Secretary-General:

    Thank you. It's a great pleasure.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Just a few moments ago, we got a report from a correspondent who's been in the Irrawaddy Delta for much of the past couple of weeks. And he gave us a report of a mounting humanitarian catastrophe; the scale rises by the day.

    Are you still optimistic at this point that the international community will be allowed to help save the tens of thousands of people of Myanmar who are still in danger?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    I'm very sad. It's a great human tragedy.

    As secretary-general of the United Nations, I'm mobilizing all possible United Nations agencies, funds and programs, aid workers.

    And I have dispatched my undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs to Myanmar. He is going to have a meeting with the Myanmese senior authorities, and he will try to inspect the affected areas.

    And rest assured that I'm doing my best efforts. I cannot tell you that I'm optimistic or pessimistic, but the aid has been too slow. And I urge Myanmese authorities to be more flexible in allowing the flow of humanitarian assistance and aid workers.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Has there been any encouraging movement in that direction? Have your various agencies been allowed to put more people into the country, into the affected areas?

  • BAN KI-MOON:

    Yes, in fact, there have been some flexibilities shown by Myanmese authorities most recently. And I have been talking to all the leaders in the region, particularly ASEAN countries and other world leaders.

    And I have convened an urgent meeting in the United Nations with all ASEAN countries and major donors. We have made a very good meeting.

    Even this morning, I have called in all these ASEAN ambassadors. They are now cooperating, but it's still too little, far, far, far short.

    I'm doing my best. We have delivered, at least by this time, 60 trainloads of humanitarian food and relief items. I'm very much heartened by such very swift and strong support from the international community.

    Myanmese authorities should really cooperate fully so that these relief items can be delivered without any delay to the people in need.

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