US urges restraint in Myanmar ahead of China talks

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BEIJING, Sep 27 (Reuters) A top US envoy today urged Myanmar's generals to use restraint in handling anti-government protests and called on China and other countries to use their influence on the junta.

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill was to meet Chinese officials in Beijing, where he arrived for negotiations on dismantling North Korea's nuclear programme.

''I think all countries need to use all the influence that they have. I think every country has some influence with Burma, and I think China is certainly one of those,'' he told reporters.

China, a major trade partner of Myanmar and one of the isolated regime's few allies, is seen as wielding considerable sway over the country's junta, which is grappling with the biggest anti-government protests in 20 years.

Sources in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, said at least three people, including two monks, were shot dead on Wednesday as security forces fired warning shots and used tear gas and baton charges to quell the monk-led protests.

''I think we all need to agree on the fact that the Burmese government has to stop thinking that this can be solved by police and military and start thinking about the need for some genuine reconciliation with the broad spectrum of political activists in the country,'' Hill said.

''The use of force will solve nothing. This is about arriving at political arrangements.'' China has called for stability in Myanmar, but it has not joined the chorus of voices from the West calling for restraint.

Some diplomats and analysts say Beijing may be quietly trying to exert its influence on the generals, but others argue it is unlikely to wield what power it has and risk its strategic goals of using the country to secure oil and gas supplies.

NO TO SANCTIONS US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said on Wednesday China in particular should use its sway over Myanmar.

''We want them (China) to use their influence in whatever form they can to get the regime to change its views,'' Casey said.

But at the United Nations, China, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council, ruled out calls for sanctions or a UN condemnation of the junta's use of force, saying the situation did not constitute a threat to international peace and security.

''I think it's very difficult to imagine that the Chinese government will agree to apply sanctions to their neighbour,'' said Jurgen Haacke, a specialist on the international politics of Southeast Asia at the London School of Economics.

''They look at Myanmar in terms of strategic significance ...

There are certain economic interests that the Chinese simply have and that are there to stay.'' China's priority is maintaining stability in the region ahead of next month's five-yearly Communist Party meeting, which will decide important leadership changes, and the Beijing Olympics next August.

In a country that sent in the military to quash its own pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989, the government is also wary of any example the Myanmar protests could set at home.

Chinese media has given only scant coverage to the unrest, with Thursday's newspapers carrying a report by the official Xinhua news agency on the inside pages.

''Myanmar authorities have been using restraint in handling the demonstrating monks and have not used force to disperse the demonstrators,'' the report said.

REUTERS ARB PM0924

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