Oct 9, 2007 (AFP), China on Monday spearheaded a move in the UN Security Council to soften a Western-sponsored statement on the military crackdown in Myanmar amid broad agreement on the need for ending the violence and freeing political prisoners.
Experts from the council’s 15 members huddled behind closed doors for nearly three hours in "a constructive atmosphere" and the sponsors agreed to come up with a revised text taking into account of the amendments, said a delegate from Ghana, which chairs the council this month.
"They intend to circulate a revised text some time this evening which we would then refer to our capitals for consideration and instructions," Albert Yankey told AFP.
The United States, Britain and France introduced their initial draft Friday after the council heard a report from UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari on his recent mission to Myanmar to defuse the crisis.
The text would condemn "the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations" by Myanmar’s rulers, urge them to "cease repressive measures" and release detainees as well as all political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Yankey said there was consensus on calling the violence by the military regime and its repression of peaceful protests "unacceptable," on the need for dialogue and national reconciliation, and for expressing support for Gambari’s mission.
But he noted that China, backed by several other delegations, insisted on replacing the word "condemn" by "strongly deplore" and dropping a reference to consideration of "further steps," suggesting instead that the council continues to monitor the situation.
The Chinese also objected to a detailed formulation in the draft of the steps the Myanmar regime must take to defuse the crisis, the diplomat said.
"China has a key role to play (in the crisis) and needs to maintain communications with the regime. The same applies to Gambari," said Yankey, who noted that members were keen "not to jeopardize" the twin mediation.
"There is no delegation that does not want to see a quick adoption" of the text, he said, adding that all members were ready for compromise.
Yankey said he did not expect the experts to meet again until Wednesday.
The text was debated here amid intense pressure for strong council action from world public opinion following outrage over Myanmar’s deadly repression of peaceful anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks late last month.
At least 13 people died and more than 2,100 were locked up in the crackdown as security forces moved to crush protests involving up to 100,000 people with live rounds, baton charges and tear gas.
On Saturday, protests were held in several cities around the world in support of Myanmar’s embattled pro-democracy movement. Italy’s UN Ambassador Marcello Spatafora for his part stressed that it was urgent for the council to send a "strong, unified" message to Myanmar’s ruling junta.
Unlike a resolution, a so-called presidential statement requires the consent of all 15 members to be adopted.
China, which has close ties with Myanmar and favors constructive engagement with its military regime, warned last week that putting pressure on the ruling generals "would lead to confrontation."
The United States has threatened to push for UN sanctions against the military regime, including an arms embargo, if it refuses to halt its crackdown and refused to cooperate with Gambari’s mediation for national reconciliation.
But any sanctions resolution was likely to face resistance and possibly a veto from China and Russia, which deem the turmoil in the southeast Asian country an internal matter and not a threat to broader peace and security.
In a conciliatory move apparently aimed at forestalling tough council condemnation, Myanmar’s rulers trumpeted the release of hundreds of monks and demonstrators and donated thousands of dollars as well as food and medicines to monasteries in Yangon.
And junta chief Than Shwe named the deputy labor minister, Aung Kyi, as the "manager for relations" with Aung San Suu Kyi, four days after the military supremo made a heavily conditioned offer to meet with the Nobel Peace prize laureate, state television said.
Aung San Suu Kyi, who has come to symbolize Myanmar’s peaceful struggle for democracy, has spent most of the past 18 years under house arrest.