Rice calls for 'more vigor' on Burma

Dec 22, 2007 (AFP), US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the international community Friday to act with "more vigor" in dealing with the junta in Burma, calling a UN envoy’s treatment there "unacceptable".

Rice said the mission of UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari "needs to have more profile, it needs to have more vigor" while admitting the world’s energy had dissipated on dealing with the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

"It needs to be, I believe, more insistent on the junta that a special representative of the United Nations secretary general cannot be treated the way that the junta has treated Mr. Gambari," she told a press conference.

"It’s simply unacceptable," she said.

When asked what treatment Rice might have been referring to, a State Department official said the junta has made it difficult for Gambari to enter Burma and schedule meetings.

The junta has also "not been forthcoming" on what Gambari has asked them to do, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also blasted the military regime Friday for arresting at least six democracy activists "for peacefully expressing their political beliefs".

The arrests "belie the Burmese regime’s claim that it seeks a genuine and peaceful transition to democracy, and demonstrate that it is not fulfilling the expectations of the UN Security Council as expressed in the October 11 UN Security Council Presidential Statement," said McCormack.

The US Senate approved on Wednesday sanctions against Burma’s multi-million dollar gemstone industry to punish the military regime over its deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests in September.

The House of Representatives passed similar legislation last week, but it needs to vote on the Senate version because it was amended. The final bill would then go to US President George W. Bush for his signature.

Last week, Bush threatened to spearhead a global campaign to step up sanctions against Burma if it continues to ignore calls for a democratic transition.

At least 31 people were killed and 74 went missing in the suppression in September of peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks, according to a UN report.

Bush recently announced new sanctions against Burma’s military, including an asset freeze on key junta figures and blacklisting of seven companies and five individuals allegedly linked to those companies and the regime.

The United States has long maintained a trade and investment ban on Burma.

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