UN envoy warns Myanmar of international reaction

Fri Oct 5, 2007 7:49pm BST

(Adds Gambari visit may be earlier, new quotes)

By Claudia Parsons

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 (Reuters) - U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari warned Myanmar on Friday of serious international repercussions from its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and urged the ruling junta to release all political prisoners.

But China and the United States clashed over whether the international community should take any action on Myanmar through the U.N. Security Council, with Beijing insisting the crisis there was an internal affair.

Just returned from Myanmar, Gambari cited "continuing and disturbing reports of abuses" by security forces, "particularly at night during curfew, including raids on private homes, beatings, arbitrary arrests and disappearances."

Gambari also told the Council there were unconfirmed reports that the number of casualties was "much higher" than the dozen people authorities say have died.

Nevertheless, he told reporters he saw a "window of opportunity" in possible talks between the government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and he hoped to return to Myanmar before a scheduled date of mid-November.

He said the Myanmar government must recognize that what happened there "can have serious international repercussions."

Western countries are pushing for Security Council action, such as sanctions, but veto-wielding China has resisted.

Despite that, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the council: "If the Burmese regime does not respond constructively to the demands of the international community in a timely manner, the United States is prepared to introduce a resolution in the Security Council imposing additional sanctions."

"We must all be prepared to consider measures such as arms embargoes," Khalilzad said, urging Myanmar's neighbors to exert the maximum pressure meanwhile to get the military government there to cooperate with Gambari's efforts.

SECURITY COUNCIL ROLE

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya, however, said Myanmar posed no threat to international peace and security, a condition for Security Council action. China neighbors Myanmar and is among its few allies and major trading partners.

Pressure, he said, "will not help address the problem but might lead to mistrust and confrontation."

The Security Council adjourned without taking any action on Friday but Western diplomats said they would try to draft a statement next week that the whole Council could approve.

Gambari said a number of points "emerged by real consensus" in the Council, including support for his efforts and resolve that Myanmar could not return to the "status quo" prevailing before recent pro-democracy protests.

"We can't go back to the situation before the recent crisis," he said.

Myanmar's U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe urged the Security Council to take no action that would harm the "good offices" role of the world body to defuse the situation in Myanmar.

"No Security Council action is warranted with regard to the situation in Myanmar," he said at the open meeting whose audience included a dozen Buddhist monks in robes.

China and Russia in January vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution demanding an end to political repression and human rights violations.

French envoy Jean-Pierre Lacroix, like Gambari, called for the release of political prisoners, saying there was confirmed evidence of monasteries left empty after the arrest of monks.

"It's important to really know how many victims there are since the authorities are trying to conceal their bloody repression from the world," Lacroix said.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers said the Myanmar junta "cannot turn the clock back. The world has seen the real desire of the Burmese people for change."

Gambari urged the government to meet as soon as possible with Suu Kyi, whom he met twice in Myanmar.

Her party dismissed a conditional offer by the junta for talks as a surrender demand on Friday, saying the conditions amounted to asking her to abandon the campaign for democracy that has kept her in detention for 12 of the last 18 years.

But Gambari said: "From my own conversation, she appears to be very anxious to have a proper dialogue and of course the (U.N.) Secretary General (Ban Ki-Moon) has characterised (that) as without preconditions."

(Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip and Evelyn Leopold)





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