UN envoy warns Myanmar of international reaction

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

But China and the United States clashed over whether the international community should take any action on Myanmar through the UN Security Council, with Beijing insisting the crisis there was an internal affair.

Just returned from Myanmar, Gambari cited ''continuing and disturbing reports of abuses'' by security forces, ''particularly at night during curfew, including raids on private homes, beatings, arbitrary arrests and disappearances.'' Gambari also told the Council there were unconfirmed reports that the number of casualties was ''much higher'' than the dozen people authorities say have died.

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 sanctions, but veto-wielding China has resisted.

Despite that, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the council: ''If the Burmese regime does not respond constructively to the demands of the international community in a timely manner, the United States is prepared to introduce a resolution in the Security Council imposing additional 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.'' Myanmar's UN Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe urged the Security Council to take no action that would harm the ''good offices'' role of the world body to defuse the situation in Myanmar.

He said Myanmar would cooperate fully with Gambari, who is due to return to the country in November to continue his efforts at mediating between the government and opposition.

''No Security Council action is warranted with regard to the situation in Myanmar,'' Kyaw Tint Swe said at the open meeting whose audience included around a dozen Buddhist monks in robes.

China and Russia in January vetoed a U.S.-drafted Security Council resolution demanding an end to political repression and human rights violations.

Singapore, current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), questioned the impact of sanctions and warned they might damage reconciliation talks, but did not rule them out.

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.

Britain's UN Ambassador John Sawers said the council's first action should be a formal statement of its concerns. ''The regime cannot turn the clock back,'' he said. ''The world has seen the real desire of the Burmese people for change.'' 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 junta for talks as a surrender demand on Friday. Junta chief 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, an opposition spokesman said.

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


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