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October 9, 2007

UNSC to discuss action on Myanmar
Faced with mounting world outrage over violence in Myanmar, the UN Security Council was to meet Monday, under pressure to quickly condemn the military government for crushing pro-democracy protests.

The 15-member body was to weigh a draft statement that would condemn "the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations" by Myanmar's rulers, urge them to "cease repressive measures" and release detainees as well as all political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The non-binding text, drafted by the United States, Britain and France, was submitted Friday to the full council after members heard a report from UN emissary Ibrahim Gambari on his recent mission to defuse the crisis.

But despite worldwide protests in support of Myanmar's embattled pro-democracy movement, the draft was likely to be toned down at the request of China, Russia and possibly Indonesia, diplomats said.

Meanwhile, Myanmar's state press trumpeted the release of hundreds of monks and demonstrators ahead of the council's meeting. State media reported Monday that the government had donated thousands of dollars as well as food and medicines to monasteries in Yangon, in an apparent gesture of reconciliation.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper said more than half of the 2,171 people arrested after the biggest anti-government protests in nearly two decades had been released, repeating figures given on state television.

But army trucks remained stationed at Yangon landmarks Sunday, including by the Sule and Shwedagon Pagodas -- rallying points for last month's demonstrations.

The United States has threatened to push for UN sanctions against Myanmar's ruling generals, including an arms embargo, if they refuse to halt their crackdown and to cooperate with Gambari's mediation for national reconciliation.

But any sanctions resolution was likely to face resistance and possibly a veto from China and Russia, who deem the turmoil in the Southeast Asian country an internal matter and not a threat to regional or international peace and security.

Last January, China and Russia used a rare double veto to block a US-sponsored draft resolution that would have called on Myanmar's rulers to free all political detainees and end sexual violence by the military.

A Western diplomat said that council experts would try Monday to work out an amended version of the text which would then be submitted to their ambassadors for approval.

Unlike a resolution, a so-called presidential statement requires the consent of all 15 members to be adopted.

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