China rejects sanctions as UN Myanmar envoy ends talks

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BEIJING, Oct 25 (Reuters) The United Nations envoy on Myanmar concluded talks with China today, with no indication Beijing had agreed to exert tougher pressure on the junta that runs the troubled Southeast Asian nation.

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has been visiting Asia to press neighbours -- especially India and China -- to take a tougher line against Myanmar's military government, which harshly quelled pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist clergy.

Earlier this month, US President George W Bush also urged Beijing and New Delhi to step up pressure and follow Washington's example of applying sanctions.

But China is wary of using sanctions against any country and has major economic and strategic stakes in Myanmar, as does India. After meetings with Gambari, Chinese diplomats gave no public sign of ramping up pressure, instead repeating their argument that talk, not sanctions, is the best approach.

''The Myanmar issue, after all, has to be appropriately resolved by its own people and government through their own efforts of dialogue and consultation,'' State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan told Gambari on Thursday.

''The international community should provide constructive help for that end and should not only stick to imposing sanctions and pressure,'' Tang said in remarks carried by the Web site of the Chinese Foreign Ministry (www.fmprc.gov.cn).

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Gambari, who did not speak to reporters in Beijing, that China would continue its efforts to help achieve a ''proper resolution'' in Myanmar.

China, the closest the isolated junta has to an ally, has expressed concern about the crackdown and helped bring about Gambari's visit to Myanmar earlier this month.

Beijing also joined Western powers to deplore Myanmar's crushing of the pro-democracy demonstrations in a statement by the U.N. Security Council.

But Beijing has stressed that the statement did not mean it would stomach harsher action or legally binding UN resolutions against the Myanmar.

Chinese embassies across the globe were the target of protests on Wednesday by groups claiming that Beijing coddles Myanmar's generals with arms and investment and has failed to use its influence to ease the crackdown.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman responded by asserting that outside countries could not solve Myanmar's problems.

''The essence of the Myanmar issue is that it has to be resolved by the Myanmar government and people,'' spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.

Before visiting China, Gambari was in India, which has also resisted wielding economic pressure against Myanmar, a country with energy resources coveted by both New Delhi and Beijing.

Delhi has promised to help push Myanmar towards democracy but stopped short of committing to concrete action.

Today, the Indian Foreign Minister repeated that line.

''We have shared our views and we have commonality of the approach, and let the process which began in Myanmar for the political reforms and national reconciliation, let it be taken to its logical conclusion,'' Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in the northeast Chinese city Harbin, where he had been meeting his Chinese and Russian counterparts.

Gambari is due to travel on to Tokyo later on Thursday and to return to Myanmar in early November.

REUTERS SYU KP1506

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