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US draft on Myanmar abuses vetoed at UN Council

By Staff
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UNITED NATIONS, Jan 13 (Reuters) China and Russia vetoed a US-drafted resolution calling on Myanmar's military junta to stop persecution of minority and opposition groups, killing the measure in the UN Security Council.

The United States, which softened the draft from the original, received backing from nine of the 15 nations on the council for the draft resolution on Myanmar, formerly Burma.

But among the other six were China and Russia, permanent council members with veto rights.

South Africa also voted ''no,'' while Qatar, Indonesia and Congo Republic abstained. Voting with Washington were Britain, which co-sponsored the draft, France, Belgium, Italy, Ghana, Peru, Panama and Slovakia.

''The United States is deeply disappointed by the failure of the council to adopt this resolution,'' Alejandro Wolff, the acting US ambassador, told the council.

''This resolution would have been a strong and urgently needed statement by the Security Council about the need for change in Burma, whose military regime arbitrarily arrests, tortures, rapes and executes its own people, wages war on minorities within its own borders, and builds itself new cities, while looking the other way as refugee flows increase, narcotics and human trafficking grow, and communicable diseases remain untreated.'' Wolff said.

Myanmar's UN ambassador, Kyaw Tint Swe, said cooperating with the United Nations was the cornerstone of Myanmar's foreign policy and ''we are encouraged by today's Security Council decision.'' The military has run Myanmar since 1962, ignoring a 1990 landslide election victory by the National League for Democracy party led by Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel laureate, who has been in prison or under house arrest since then. Thousands of her supporters have been jailed.

The US measure called for the release of Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners and for her party and all other groups to be able to operate freely.

No one denied abuses by Myanmar's junta, which has been condemned in the 192-member General Assembly. At issue was whether rights violations are a danger to peace and security in the region, the council's mandate.

Otherwise, human rights violations are an issue for the assembly, whose resolutions carry less weight.

DOUBLE VETO Russia and China have not cast a double veto since September 1972 on a proposed amendment to a resolution calling for observance of a cease-fire in the Middle East.

Beijing has only used its veto four times in the past, the last time in February 1999 on extending a peacekeeping force in Macedonia because of the Balkan's nation's ties with Taiwan.

Russia last used its veto in April 2004 on a Cyprus resolution for technical reasons.

Moscow's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said he opposed ''attempts at using the Security Council to discuss issues outside the purview.'' China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, said Myanmar's neighbors did not consider it a threat to peace and security.

''Similar problems exist in other countries as well,'' Wang said, adding the council could arbitrarily consider the situation in all 192 UN member states as a threat to peace and security.

Indonesia, a regional neighbor of Myanmar, said the issue was not bilateral or one for Asia only but had international ramifications. ''Myanmar must respond to the imperative of restoring democracy and human rights,'' Ambassador Rezlan Ishar Jenie said.

Still, Jenie said he had to abstain because the Security Council was ''not the appropriate body'' to address the issue.

Britain's UN ambassador, Emyr Jones Parry, told reporters he helped push the resolution because ''I want tomorrow morning to be able to reassure myself that we did the right thing, the right thing by the people of Myanmar.'' Reuters AD VP0635

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