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France suggests incentives for Burma

Oct 29, 2007 (AP), Sanctions against Burma’s junta for cracking down on democracy protesters should be coupled with incentives to encourage a better response from the regime, France’s foreign minister said Monday, suggesting an international fund for development.

The European Union and the United States have pressed for expanded sanctions against Burma in recent weeks, after the junta arrested thousands of people following pro-democracy protests, shooting dead at least 10.

"Do we believe that (the sanctions) will be enough? No. Will it be useful? I hope so," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said before meeting with Singaporean officials.

"But we also have to work on the political offer, and on incentives for the Burmese people to be part of."

As an incentive for the regime to work for national reconciliation in Burma, an international trust fund could be set up for development projects, Kouchner said.

Kouchner noted the European Union earlier this month agreed to expand sanctions against Burma, banning imports of timber, gemstones and precious metals in response to the junta’s crackdown on pro-democracy groups. The EU is holding off applying them to give UN mediators more time to sway the military leaders to start talks with pro-democracy groups.

The French minister’s Singapore visit coincides with one by the UN’s special envoy on Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, at the end of his six-nation Asian tour to drum up international pressure on Myanmar to end its crackdown. Gambari met Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo and they had "a good exchange of views on the Myanmar situation," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

Gambari and Kouchner also met Monday afternoon, but no details of the discussions were immediately available.

Speaking to the Foreign Correspondents Association in Singapore, Kouchner said the international trust fund, which he envisaged as being overseen by the World Bank and the UN, would provide "micro-credit at the level of the state" to create opportunities for the development of Burma’s trade and industry, among other projects.

Kouchner cited as an example the World Bank trust fund that was set up in 2000 for war-devastated Kosovo, where he worked as chief UN administrator to coordinate reconstruction and peace efforts.

He did not give a target sum for a Myanmar fund, but said British Foreign Minister David Miliband was also in favor of it and they would be seeking the support of the EU, the US, Japan, and Southeast Asian countries.

Kouchner is visiting the region to discuss Myanmar with some of its closest neighbors and trading partners. He will travel to Singapore, Thailand and China.

Kouchner said he asked Singapore to consider imposing sanctions against Burma’s regime.

But Yeo said Southeast Asian countries do not believe that sanctions work.

"What is important is whatever measures we take should assist Gambari and not make his work more difficult," Yeo said.

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