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Security Council moving toward adoption of Myanmar statement

Oct 11, 2007 (AFP), UN Security Council envoys were expected to adopt a non-binding statement Thursday deploring the military crackdown in Myanmar, after the text was watered down to placate China and Russia.

Ambassadors from the 15-member body were due to meet Thursday morning to consider reactions from their capitals to the latest draft put forward by the United States, Britain and France late Wednesday.

After lengthy consultations, they said they reached broad agreement on key parts of the draft presidential statement and were hopeful that their capitals would give the green light for formal adoption.

Unlike a resolution, a presidential statement requires the consent of all 15 council members to be adopted.

The statement "strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar" and calls on Myanmar’s military regime and all other parties concerned "to work together toward a de-escalation of the situation and a peaceful solution."

The sponsors finessed disagreement over the issue of releasing political prisoners and detainees by offering members a choice between two formulations.

One calls "on the government to release all political prisoners and remaining detainees" and the other emphasizes "the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees."

During Wednesday’s consultations, China, which favors constructive engagement with its close ally Myanmar, and Russia sought to further soften the draft.

Beijing and Moscow argue that the Myanmar crisis is an internal matter that does not threaten regional or international peace and security.

But Indonesian Ambassador Marty Natalegawa said that in the end the council moved toward consensus because "it wishes to speak with one voice" to send a united message to Myanmar’s generals.

Members agreed on other parts of the text such as the need for the ruling junta "to create the necessary conditions, including the early lifting of restrictions on (opposition leader) Aung San Suu Kyi, for a genuine dialogue with all concerned parties and ethnic groups to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation."

The draft expresses support for the early return to Myanmar of UN troubleshooter Ibrahim Gambari, who visited the restive southeast Asian country early last week to defuse the crisis, "in order to facilitate concrete actions and tangible results."

It calls on the government and all parties concerned "to cooperate fully with Mr. Gambari," the UN pointman in efforts to promote national reconciliation between the junta and the opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyii.

A Western diplomat said Gambari was planning to travel to neighboring countries, including possibly China, before returning to Myanmar before the end of this month.

Meanwhile Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council to impose a mandatory arms embargo on Myanmar, saying that suppliers of arms to the regime were enhancing its power.

"India, China, Russia, and other nations are supplying Burma with weapons that the military uses to commit human rights abuses and to bolster its ability to maintain power," HRW said in a statement.

It also said both South and North Korea and Israel reportedly have supplied weaponry or other aide to Myanmar’s military.

And it said that Myanmar military and police officials have received training from Russia, Ukraine, and Australia.

"It's time for the Security Council to end all sales and transfers of arms to a government that uses repression and fear to hang onto power," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

At least 13 people died and more than 2,100 were locked up when the ruling military junta cracked down on thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators led by Buddhist monks in September and early October.

The crackdown sparked worldwide outrage and brought demands for the country’s military to give up or at least share power with civilians.

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