Security Council urges more progress in Burma

Jan 18, 2008 (DVB), The United Nations Security Council has expressed regret at the "slow rate of progress" by the Burmese government and called for special advisor Ibrahim Gambari to return to the country.

In a press statement read out yesterday by UNSC president Giadalla Ettalhi, council members reaffirmed their support for special envoy Ibrahim Gambari's efforts but called for more progress towards the objectives laid out in last year's presidential statement.

They also expressed their support for an early return visit to Burma by Gambari to help further progress.

Speaking to reporters after the UNSC meeting, Gambari said that the junta had refused his request to visit the country again this month, proposing that he come in April instead.

"The secretary-general has said that [an April visit] is not acceptable and I agree, so we are in the process of negotiating an early rather than a later return to Myanmar," he said.

Gambari called for all countries that had expressed support for his mission in Burma to back up their words with concrete actions.

He said that "comprehensive engagement" with the regime was needed on political issues such as freedom for democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, but also more broadly.

"There are many other problems or challenges , drugs issues, child soldiers, forced labour, humanitarian access, military action against the ethnic nationality groups," he said.

US ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad said after the meeting that there was "a huge gap between where we need to be and where we are" in Burma.

National League for Democracy spokesperson U Nyan Win supported the statement's call for faster progress.

"We welcome the United Nations Security Council's statement yesterday. We see Burma is progressing very slowly on the dialogue and the national reconciliation – in fact, there has been no development," he said.

"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi said in her latest statement that she is ready to negotiate and have a dialogue but it is just the other party that is delaying this progress."

The UNSC presidential statement of 11 October called for genuine dialogue in support of national reconciliation, and urged the government to make moves to address the social, political and economic issues in the country.

Reporting by DVB

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