Tuesday, October 09, 2007

UN Urges Myanmar to Hold Talks With Aung San Suu Kyi

The United Nations urged Myanmar's military regime to hold talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and lift a condition that she stops calling for demonstrations and international sanctions against the junta.

"The earlier you start talking directly, the better,'' Ibrahim Gambari, the UN envoy who visited the Southeast Asian nation last week, told UN radio yesterday.

General Than Shwe has offered to meet Suu Kyi if she stops backing anti-regime protests and sanctions. He appointed a government minister yesterday to build relations with the National League for Democracy leader, who has spent almost 12 years in detention since 1990, Agence France-Presse reported.

Gambari's call for dialogue came as officials from the UN Security Council's 15 member states met in New York to discuss a statement drafted by the U.S., U.K. and France condemning the regime's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, AFP reported. Security forces in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, clubbed and shot at demonstrators two weeks ago as they staged the biggest anti-government protests since 1988.

The UN is concerned Than Shwe "put some conditions on the commencement'' of the talks with Suu Kyi, Gambari said, adding Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called for the dialogue to be free of stipulations.

Gambari said he plans to visit Myanmar again next month and will seek the advice of neighboring countries that belong to the Association of Southeast Asian nations.

"It is very important to gain their support, get their perspectives,'' he said, according to the UN's Web site.

Peaceful Resolution

Asean, a 10-member bloc that includes Myanmar, has expressed "revulsion'' at the violent crackdown and demanded the junta resolve the crisis peacefully.

The junta rejected the results of parliamentary elections in 1990 won by the National League for Democracy. Suu Kyi is among more than 1,000 political prisoners in the country.

The draft Security Council statement condemns "the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations'' and urges the junta to "cease repressive measures,'' AFP reported.

China is calling on members not to use strong language in the text, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters in Beijing today.

"Myanmar's situation has calmed down considerably. Whatever the UN Security Council does, we hope it will be constructive and responsible and encourage Myanmar to return to stability as soon as possible,'' Liu said.

1988 Uprising

Buddhist monks last month led more than a week of protests against the regime in the biggest show of defiance since a pro-democracy uprising by students in 1988.

That revolt was crushed when the army killed 1,000 protesters on Aug. 8, 1988, and an estimated 3,000 others in the weeks afterward, according to the U.S. State Department.

At least 30 people were killed and 1,400 arrested in the crackdown that began Sept. 26, according to the Australian government.

The European Union is set to expand sanctions against Myanmar, including a ban on further investment, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Miliband said yesterday.

EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Oct. 15 will probably agree on "a package of tougher measures,'' Miliband said in a statement to the U.K. Parliament.

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