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British PM threatens fresh Burma sanctions

July 6, 2009 (DVB), British prime minister Gordon Brown has said that Burma may be subject to new sanctions following a fruitless visit by UN chief Ban Ki-moon in which he was denied a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.

The UN Secretary General left Burma on Saturday after a two-day visit aimed principally at securing the release of political prisoners and instigating dialogue between the Burmese junta and opposition groups.

Neither was achieved, however, and Ban Ki-moon yesterday expressed his "deep disappointment" over the denial of a request to meet with opposition leader Suu Kyi, who faces up five years imprisonment on charges of breaching conditions of her house arrest.

Speaking to the BBC on Saturday, Gordon Brown said he hoped there was "still the possibility of a change of approach from Burma", but acknowledged that the regime there "has put increased isolation – including the possibility of further sanctions – on the international agenda".

Burma is already subject to far-reaching sanctions from Western countries, including the United States and European Union.

It is their alliance with a handful of other countries, most notably China, however, that observers say are weakening the efficacy of sanctions.

It is also this relationship with China, and to an extent Russia, that has denied the UN Security Council any sway in the country, with China on several occasions vetoing UN resolutions to pressure the regime to end human rights abuses against civilians.

A Security Council diplomat yesterday told Reuters, on condition of anonymity, that "China knows the council will have to look again at Myanmar [Burma]".

Prior to Ban Ki-moon's visit, both members of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party and human rights groups had warned that the visit could lend legitimacy to the regime.

On Saturday the UN chief told a pres conference in Rangoon that Burma's human rights record was of "grave concern", but added that his failure to meet with Suu Kyi "should not be the benchmark of success or failure" of the trip.

Reporting by Francis Wade


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