UN Security Council to meet Wed on Myanmar

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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 (Reuters) The UN Security Council called a meeting for 3 pm local time 2430 hrs IST today to consult on growing clashes in Myanmar between security forces and pro-democracy demonstrators.

The UN special envoy for Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, would brief the 15-nation council, UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said.

The United States and the 27-member European Union asked the council to consider sanctions against Myanmar and condemned violence by the ruling junta against the protesters, who include Buddhist monks.

''We condemn all violence against peaceful demonstrators and remind the country's leaders of their personal responsibilities (for) their actions,'' a US-EU statement said. ''We call on the Security Council to discuss this situation urgently and to consider further steps including sanctions.'' The statement, after a ministerial meeting on the fringes of the UN General Assembly that included US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said: ''We call on the authorities to stop violence and to open a process of dialogue with pro-democracy leaders, including Aung San San Suu Kyi, and representatives of ethnic minorities.'' Gambari had briefed the Security Council last week on the situation in Myanmar, before several people were killed today as security forces used warning shots, tear gas and baton charges to try to quell the biggest protests against military rule in 20 years.

Gambari hopes to go to Myanmar next month, but the timing of his visit is still under discussion with the junta.

The Security Council has been divided about action against Myanmar. In January, China and Russia vetoed a resolution calling for Myanmar to stop persecuting minority and opposition groups and take concrete steps toward democracy.

The crisis in Myanmar has been a leading theme of the General Assembly's annual gathering of world leaders, which opened yesterday. US President George W Bush, in his speech to the assembly, announced new sanctions against the junta.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in an opening address yesterday, urged Myanmar authorities to ''exercise utmost restraint'' and engage in dialogue with ''all the relevant parties to the national reconciliation process.'' REUTERS PD RAI2204

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