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UN chief urges Myanmar junta to take ‘tangible steps’

 
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September 12, 2008

UN chief urges Myanmar junta to take ‘tangible steps’
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed frustration Thursday at the failure of Myanmar's military government to open its political process and urged the junta to take "tangible steps" to include opponents like Aung San Suu Kyi, reported the Associated Press.

Ban spoke to reporters at a news conference while his special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, was briefing the UN Security Council behind closed doors on his visit to Myanmar from August 18-23. He failed to see Suu Kyi during the visit.

Gambari said afterwards that he told council members the visit "fell below our expectations, particularly with regard to the release of political prisoners and the resumption of dialogue between the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

"Therefore, it's our view that it's imperative for the government of Myanmar at this point to deliver substantive results...," he said.

Ban refused to call Gambari's visit a failure, telling reporters that he intends to continue to try to make progress through "all possible diplomatic means."

He announced that he will hold a meeting on Friday with ambassadors from concerned member states to discuss ways to promote progress, particularly with countries that may have influence on Myanmar.

"I share the frustration many feel with the situation in Myanmar," Ban said. "We have not seen the political progress I had hoped for.

We want to see the parties, in particular the government of Myanmar, take tangible steps toward establishing a credible and inclusive political process in the country, which of course must include progress on human rights."

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has been in a political deadlock since 1990, when Suu Kyi's party overwhelmingly won a general election but was not allowed to take power by the military.

She has been detained, mainly under house arrest, for 13 of the last 19 years.

The United Nations has tried with little success to nudge the regime toward talks with the opposition, hoping the top generals would respond to international pressure to embrace national reconciliation following its violent suppression of massive, anti-government protests in Yangon last year.

Suu Kyi's cancellation of meetings with Gambari was the latest stumble in the UN's bid to promote democracy in Myanmar.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Thursday that Washington believes "more pressure needs to be applied on the (Myanmar) regime."

"The regime is not complying," he said. "It is in defiance of what the international community has asked for. We believe that it is time to deliberate on what to do to be more effective."

British Ambassador John Sawers said the UN, the Security Council and others "need to reassess the way forward to bring about national reconciliation and democratic government."

"Prospects of moving forward are not at all promising," he said.

"We need to understand the frustration that she (Suu Kyi), her supporters and party and indeed the people of Burma are feeling at the lack of progress there."

A statement last month by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy complained about the lack of results from Gambari's trips.

Gambari, who has met with Suu Kyi seven times during five previous visits, said the fact that he didn't meet the detained Nobel Peace Prize winner on this trip "was disappointing to all of us" and meant he couldn't report her views as he had in the past.

He said he didn't know why Suu Kyi didn't meet him, noting that she has previously said the UN should be at the center of promoting dialogue between her and the government.

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