West warns Myanmar, British PM vows "no impunity"

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LONDON, Sep 26 (Reuters) The United States said it was deeply troubled by reports monks had been shot dead in a crackdown on Myanmar democracy protests and Britain warned military rulers the ''age of impunity'' was over.

The UN Security Council called emergency consultations on Myanmar after a day in which crowds of Buddhist monks and civilians defied warning shots, teargas and baton charges meant to quell Yangon's biggest anti-junta protests in 20 years.

Russia, which has a veto on the Security Council, appeared to take a different approach to Western powers. It said it viewed developments as Myanmar's internal affair and ''Moscow...(believes) the situation will be back to normal soon.'' ''We consider any attempts to use the latest developments to exercise outside pressure or interference in the domestic affairs of this sovereign state to be counterproductive,'' the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the European Union was going to look at ''a whole range of sanctions'' that could be imposed on the former Burma.

''The whole world is now watching Burma and its illegitimate and repressive regime should know that the whole world is going to hold it to account. The age of impunity in neglecting and overriding human rights is over,'' he said.

Hospital and monastery sources said two monks and a civilian were killed today, as years of pent-up frustration at 45 years of unbroken military rule burst into the open.

The White House expressed its concern at events in the southeast Asian country.

SANCTIONS ''If these stories are accurate, the US is very troubled that the regime would treat the Burmese people this way,'' White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. ''We call on the junta to proceed in a peaceful transition to democracy.'' President George W Bush used his annual General Assembly speech yesterday to announce new US sanctions against the Myanmar government and urged the United Nations and other countries to keep up pressure on the country's military rulers.

Singapore also urged restraint. The city state is current chairman of ASEAN, a southeast Asian grouping that has criticised member Myanmar's rights record and urged it to free political prisoners including Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

''We call upon all parties to avoid provocative actions and to work towards reconciliation and a peaceful resolution of the situation,'' Singapore's Foreign Ministry said.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi said he would ask the European Union to hold an urgent meeting on Myanmar to seek ways to ''halt the violence'' as the junta cracks down on protests against decades of military rule. EU member Spain said violent repression could have serious consequences.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour warned Myanmar's military rulers they could face an international court over violence against anti-government protesters.

''The use of excessive force and all forms of arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters are strictly prohibited under international law,'' she said in a statement.

The European Union's Humanitarian Commissioner Louis Michel called on China and ASEAN to ease the tensions in Myanmar.

''It's vitally important that Burma's neighbours are made aware of their responsibilities,'' Michel told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. ''Any collapse of Burma can only be disastrous for the whole region.'' Portugal's European Affairs Minister Manuel Lobos Antunes, speaking on behalf of the Portuguese EU presidency, told the parliament that a new political direction was required in Myanmar.

''What Burma needs now is a radical transformation, above all a political transformation. The country has to be opened up if Burma is to develop.'' Reuters PD DB2338

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