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US seeks UN Security Council actions on Myanmar

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Sept 2 (Reuters) The United States asked the UN Security Council to deal with Myanmar, whose junta government has jailed opponents, persecuted minorities and sent refugees fleeing into neighboring states.

The United States yesterday, had sought to put Myanmar, formerly Burma, on the council's agenda in May. It backed off after opposition from several council members and settled for briefings from UN officials instead.

But US Ambassador John Bolton said he now was prepared to ask for a vote to place the issue on the agenda because ''we think at this point that we would have a sufficient number of supporters.'' No resolution is planned yet.

In a letter to Greek Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis, this month's Security Council president, Bolton said conditions in Burma have a ''destabilizing impact on the region'' and that the country's deteriorating situation was ''likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security.'' He noted a briefing in December by Ibrahim Gambari, the UN undersecretary-general for political affairs, who said there were 1,147 political prisoners in Myanmar and that 240 villages of minorities had been destroyed since 2002.

Gambari said that AIDS cases were increasing, drug trafficking in border areas was rampant and UN agencies were handling some 140,000 Myanmar refugees in Thailand.

China, Russia and Japan are expected to oppose that Myanmar be handled by the Security Council instead of in the UN General Assembly or another UN body, arguing that the 15-member council only deals with threats to international peace and security and not human rights.

Japan's UN ambassador, Kenzo Oshima, said in May that the 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, did not believe that Myanmar, their neighbor, posed a threat to peace and security.

Usually, any nation can block an issue from getting on the agenda. But Bolton can call for a procedural vote, which would have to get nine nations in favor, without any veto rights.

Once an item is on the agenda, it can be reviewed at any time.

''There are times when you have to vote. There are times when people have to go on the record and say what their position is,'' Bolton said.

The military has controlled Myanmar since 1962, ignoring a 1990 landslide election victory by the National League for Democracy party led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

She has been in prison or under house arrest since May 2003, and many of her supporters have been jailed.

The government extended her detention in May, shortly after a visit from Gambari, who may travel to Myanmar again in the coming weeks, diplomats said.


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