Myanmar crisis: EU, US officials to discuss

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Washington, Nov 20: European Union and US officials discussed ways to increase pressure on Myanmar Monday, as a human rights group called for United Nations sanctions to cut off energy revenues to the military junta.

Piero Fassino, the EU special envoy for Myanmar, said Brussels and Washington were also looking to China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to play a bigger role in pressing for dialogue in the former Burma.

''We hope that from Asian countries a very strong pressure can come so that the dialogue is enhanced,'' he told reporters after meeting with senior White House and State Department officials.

ASEAN, whose leaders are gathered in Singapore for their annual summit this week, condemned the junta's violent suppression of Buddhist monks and other peaceful protesters but needed to do more, said Fassino.

''We also expect the same severity on concrete actions,''said the Italian diplomat, who will visit Singapore later this week to meet with ASEAN officials and then tour Asian capitals beginning with Beijing to discuss Myanmar.

When asked about Asian banks that handle Myanmar junta money, Fassino said financial institutions need to be consistent in applying sanctions.

EU and US. officials shared a ''common assessment'' on Myanmar following September's crackdown on the biggest democracy protests in nearly 20 years and the ''will to work together'' on sanctions, he said.

Energy sanctions urged: The 27-nation European Union adopted sanctions yesterday against 1,207 firms in Myanmar and expanded visa bans and asset freezes on the country's military rulers over the crackdown, which the junta acknowledged had killed at least 15 people.

The sanctions target the country's key timber, metals and gemstone sectors and mirror US curbs imposed earlier. They include an investment ban on companies controlled by the junta and its supporters and ban exports of equipment to the timber, metals, minerals and gems sectors.

The advocacy group Human Rights Watch alled on the UN Security Council to prohibit new investment in Myanmar's oil and gas fields and block company payments that help sustain military rule.

Until a UN resolution is passed, ASEAN, China, India, the European Union, the United States and others with economic ties to Myanmar should suspend further development of the oil and gas sector, the New York-based group said in a statement.

Soaring energy prices added 1 billion dollar to the junta's revenues in 2006, the group said. The group has published a list of 27 companies based in 13 countries with investment interests in Myanmar's oil and gas fields at http://hrw.org/campaigns/burma/drilling.

Countries with investors in Myanmar's energy sector included Australia, China, France, India, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and the United States, Human Rights Watch said.


REUTERS
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