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UN Special Envoy concerned by ongoing rights abuses

Oct 16, 2007 (DVB), United Nations Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari has described reports of continuing human rights abuses in Burma as "extremely disturbing" and called for international cooperation to bring about dialogue and national reconciliation.

Speaking yesterday from Thailand, where he had just met Thai foreign minister Nitya Pibulsonggram, Mr Gambari outlined the objectives of his current trip to the region.

The Special Envoy said that he would meet regional partners to discuss the UN's concerns about ongoing violations of human rights in connection with the recent demonstrations in Burma, which he later admitted could undermine hopes for talks.

"[T]he reports of arrests of the remaining student leaders, interrogations and acts of intimidation are extremely disturbing and run counter to the spirit of mutual engagement between the United Nations and Myanmar. These actions must stop at once," he said.

He also reiterated the UN's call for the Burmese government to release all political detainees and allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to those in detention.

Gambari said he was consulting regional partners to engage their active support in promoting dialogue and national reconciliation in Burma, and to coordinate any regional activities with those being carried out by the UN.

"The United Nations is committed to doing everything it can to promote a peaceful resolution to the crisis and help Myanmar address the political and economic challenges underlying the recent unrest," he claimed.

After leaving Bangkok, the Special Envoy is due to travel to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, New Delhi, Beijing and Tokyo. Mr Gambari said that he had been invited by the Burmese government to return to the country in the middle of November, but that he hoped to return to Burma before then.

Mr Gambari's last trip to Burma ran from 29 September to 2 October. He met senior members of the military regime, including junta leader senior general Than Shwe, and detained opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Than Shwe's offer to meet personally with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the appointment of a minister to act as a liaison between the National League for Democracy leader have been welcomed by the UN, but Burmese opposition groups have stressed the need for any talks to be held without preconditions.

Reporting by Siân Thomas

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