May 31, 2006

US seeks UN action on Myanmar

By Irwin Arieff

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States said on
Wednesday it would ask the U.N. Security Council to pressure
Myanmar to change its policies after its military rulers
extended opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest for
another year.

Washington "intends to pursue a U.N. Security Council
resolution that will underscore the international community's
concerns about the situation in Burma, including the
unjustifiable detention of a great champion of democracy, Aung
San Suu Kyi," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"The economic, political and public health situation in
Burma has deteriorated to the point where the regime's
activities and repression of political rights now poses a
threat to the stability, peace and security of the region,"
McCormack said in a statement. The United States as a matter of
policy refers to Myanmar by its former name, Burma.

The U.S. initiative is likely to be strongly opposed by
veto-wielding permanent council members China and Russia as
well as by Japan, an elected member that lacks veto power.

It was unveiled after Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.
undersecretary-general for political affairs, briefed the
council behind closed doors on his recent three-day trip to the
reclusive Southeast Asian nation.

Gambari was the first senior U.N. official in two years to
be allowed into Myanmar. His trip included an hour's visit with
Suu Kyi, her first contact with an outsider in three years.

"We are happy with the way the briefing has been provided,
but we would not be happy with going any further than that,"
Japanese U.N. Ambassador Kenzo Oshima said when asked about the
U.S. plans for following up on Gambari's talk.

Myanmar's neighbors, including the 10 members of ASEAN, the
Association of South East Asian Nations, do not see the former
Burma "as a situation that poses a threat to international
peace and security," Oshima said.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi, 60, has been in prison or under
house arrest since May 2003. The military has controlled
Myanmar since 1962, ignoring a 1990 landslide election victory
by her National League for Democracy party.

Gambari told reporters last week that Myanmar seemed to
want to improve its frayed relations to the international
community. He said freeing Suu Kyi would be a signal of that,
and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan followed up on Gambari's
plea a few days later with his own appeal to release her.

But their pleas went unheeded.

Council diplomats expressed disappointment at Suu Kyi's
extended detention but said the briefing left them optimistic.

"I take away from it that there is hope for continued
interaction between the United Nation and Myanmar," said Danish
Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Loj.