Chalk one up for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. After meeting with Myanmar’s military dictator Than Shwe today, Ban won approval for relief workers of all nations to help save the lives of Shwe’s own people. The move comes a little late for the estimated 133,000 already dead, but it could help keep that number from rising:

Myanmar has agreed to allow “all aid workers” to stage a relief effort for cyclone survivors, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said after meeting junta leader Than Shwe here on Friday.

After meeting with the senior general for more than two hours, Ban told reporters: “He has agreed to allow all aid workers regardless of nationalities.”

Asked if the agreement marked a breakthrough, Ban said: “I think so.”

The Yangbon airport will become the center of relief operations, and at least for the moment, it appears the skill and capacity of the US Navy will finally get unleashed. The US sent a significant amount of relief supplies but have been kept out of the country, awaiting permission to start operations. Shwe considered that presence a threat of invasion, thanks to his general paranoia about the US.

It may already be too late for some in the cyclone-ravaged nation, where disease will likely already have taken hold in the areas of destruction. Bodies have decomposed in the open and water tables have been exposed to all sorts of filth. It will take a massive amount of effort to keep hundreds of thousands more Burmese from dying in the weeks ahead.

If Shwe sticks to this agreement, Ban deserves a lot of credit for saving many lives. It will be the most significant accomplishment of the UN in years, perhaps even decades.

Update: Of course, the UN could have put its efforts into more pressing matters in Burma than mass distribution of condoms.  See-Dubya has the details at Michelle’s site.