October 13, 2007
UN slams crackdown, urges talks
The UN Security Council slammed the ruling junta in Myanmar over its violent crackdown on mass protests and urged it to open talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In its first joint formal action since last month's pro-democracy rallies, it deplored the repression and called for the release of political prisoners, amid mounting concerns for nearly 1,000 demonstrators still being held.
There was no immediate reaction from the generals, whose response to the biggest threat to their rule in nearly 20 years left at least 13 dead and saw more than 2,000 picked up, including Buddhist monks who led the rallies.
The UN Security Council statement was watered down from its original draft to win the consent of China -- one of Myanmar's closest allies -- and Russia, which have previously vetoed resolutions.
It said the Council "strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations in Myanmar" and "emphasizes the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees."
The statement, agreed unanimously by the 15-nation body, urged the Myanmar government and all concerned parties "to work together towards a de-escalation of the situation and a peaceful solution."
It called on the junta to "create the necessary conditions, for a genuine dialogue" with Aung San Suu Kyi, "in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations."
Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition alliance won elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to govern, and she has been held in detention for 12 of the past 18 years.
The move is the latest in a series of steps by the international community aimed at bringing the regime to task, with the United States -- its harshest critic -- also threatening new sanctions.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon is to send his special envoy Ibrahim Gambari back to the region this weekend to prepare the ground for a return visit to Yangon.
Gambari, a seasoned troubleshooter, met junta leaders and Aung San Suu Kyi in a first post-crackdown mission that ended 10 days ago.
He will first go to Thailand and then head to Malaysia, Indonesia, India, China and Japan, before hoping to return to Myanmar.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the UN statement would strengthen Gambari's hand in his negotiations with the regime.
He urged the generals to comply with the statement, saying: "We will not relent, we will persist until the situation is put on a right trajectory."
Britain's UN envoy John Sawers said it sent "a very strong and very clear message" that the Security Council was united.
Japan welcomed the statement, and called on the junta to improve its human rights record and cooperate with Gambari.
A Japanese video journalist was shot dead by troops while he was covering the protests but Tokyo -- which often jostles with China for influence in the region -- is refusing to suspend humanitarian aid to Myanmar.
Amnesty International said the UN statement did not go far enough.
"Obviously, we wish the Council had spoken out much stronger and had called for the immediate unconditional release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other prisoners of conscience," said the group's secretary general Irene Khan.
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