Burma's military rulers have appealed for international help to get the county's cyclone-hit Irrawaddy delta rice farmers back to their paddy fields, amid concerns about food shortages if they miss the planting season. The request came as Burma's state television yesterday said a military-sponsored constitution had won the support of 92.4 per cent of voters in a partial referendum on Saturday. A vote in cyclone-hit areas and Rangoon has been delayed until May 24.

Burma's ruling junta was last night locked in an increasingly tense stand-off with the international community after flatly refusing to allow foreign aid workers into the country to tackle the impact of the recent cyclone disaster. Amid clear indications that between 60,000 and 100,000 people are now dead or missing in the region, the Burmese junta said it was prepared to receive offers of aid from foreign sources, including the US.

For Burma's normally reclusive military rulers, resented by their own citizens and mistrustful of the outside world's intentions, the devastation wrought by tropical cyclone Nargis has posed an uncomfortable dilemma at a sensitive political moment. With the numbers of dead and missing now exceeding 60,000, the generals

President George W. Bush offered to send US naval forces to help cyclone-devastated Burma yesterday as the number of people dead and missing soared to 60,000. Mr Bush said the US, which has long-standing trade and investment sanctions against Burma, stood ready to "do a lot more to help", but that the ruling generals had first to open the door to the US. "We're prepared to help move navy assets to help find those who have lost their lives, to help find the missing and to help stabilise the situation," said Mr Bush, who has been a fierce critic of the regime.

Burma's military rulers told foreign diplomats yesterday that more than 10,000 people had died in the devastating cyclone at the weekend, as the regime made a rare appeal for international help to bring relief to survivors. The diplomats fear a further 3,000 could be missing. The cyclone, which devastated Rangoon, the largest city, and the rice-growing Irrawaddy Delta, reached speeds of up to 120mph as it ripped through the countryside.