UN envoy warns of international impact from Myanmar

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 5 (Reuters) UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari warned Myanmar today of possible serious international repercussions from its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and urged the ruling junta to release all political prisoners.

Gambari was reporting to the UN Security Council on a four-day visit he made to Myanmar sparked by concern over the violent suppression of last week's protests.

He said there were ''continuing and disturbing reports of abuses being committed by security and non-uniformed elements, particularly at night during curfew, including raids on private homes, beatings, arbitrary arrests, and disappearances.'' Gambari also said there were unconfirmed reports that the number of casualties was ''much higher'' than the dozen people reported killed by authorities.

He said the Myanmar government must recognize that what happened there ''can have serious international repercussions.'' Western countries are pushing for action by the Security Council, such as through sanctions, but veto-wielding China has said the situation in Myanmar is an internal affair and it opposes Security Council action.

Despite that, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the council: ''If the Burmese government does not take appropriate steps ... the United States is prepared to introduce a resolution in the Security Council imposing sanctions.'' ''We must all be prepared to consider measures such as arms embargoes,'' Khalilzad said, urging Myanmar's neighbors to exert the maximum pressure in the meantime to get the military government there to cooperate with Gambari's efforts.

China's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya, however, reiterated Beijing's view that Myanmar posed no threat to international peace and security, a condition for Security Council action. China neighbors Myanmar and is one of the country's few allies and major trading partners.

Pressure, he said, ''will not help address the problem but might lead to mistrust and confrontation.'' China and Russia in January vetoed a UN-drafted resolution vetoed a US-drafted Security Council resolution that demanded an end to political repression and human rights violations, saying the issue was not in the council's purview.

Wang said China was concerned over the current situation in Myanmar but believed it was calming down.

''The key is the right approach,'' Wang said. If events took a turn for the worse the people would bear the brunt and that was ''the last thing China wants to see,'' he said.

POLITICAL PRISONERS French envoy Jean-Pierre Lacroix was among several speakers who called for the release of political prisoners, saying there was corroborated evidence of monasteries left empty after the arrest of monks who led the protests.

''It's important to really know how many victims there are since the authorities are trying to conceal their bloody repression from the world,'' Lacroix said.

Gambari said it was time for the Myanmar government to make ''bold choices'' and he urged it to meet as soon as possible with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Her party dismissed a conditional offer by the Myanmar junta for talks as surreal today.

Senior General Than Shwe was asking Suu Kyi to abandon the campaign for democracy that has kept her in detention for 12 of the last 18 years, a spokesman said.

Than Shwe, head of the latest junta in 45 unbroken years of military rule of the former Burma, said Suu Kyi must abandon ''confrontation'', give up ''obstructive measures'' and support for sanctions and ''utter devastation'', a phrase it did not explain, state television said.

Gambari said he was ''cautiously encouraged'' by talk of a meeting.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the Myanmar authorities' use of force on peaceful protesters was ''abhorrent and unacceptable'' and called for ''bold actions'' by the military government toward democratization.


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