Wednesday, October 10, 2007

China Seeks Revisions of UNSC Statement

Despite harsh international criticism and threats of an Olympic boycott, China's support for Burma has not diminished, but rather threatens to undermine possible UN Security Council action. For more on the Olympic boycott on behalf of Burma (and Darfur, Tibet, and other victims of China's policies), please visit the No Olympics blog HERE.
____________________'s article published yesterday:

UN security council experts met today to finetune a Western-sponsored statement condemning the bloody military crackdown in Burma, but China pressed for softer language.

Experts from the council's 15 members huddled behind closed doors this afternoon in a search of consensus on a draft that could be submitted to their ambassadors for approval.

Early today, China's deputy UN ambassador Liu Zhenmin said there would be consultations "to improve the text", meaning to soften language in the draft submitted by the United States, Britain and France on Friday.

The three Western powers introduced their text after the council heard a report from UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari on his recent mission to Burma to defuse the crisis.

The draft would condemn "the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations" by Burma's rulers, urge them to "cease repressive measures" and release detainees as well as all political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

It was submitted amid intense pressure for strong council action from world public opinion following outrage over Burma's deadly repression of peaceful anti-government protests led by Buddhist monks late last month.

Official figures reveal at least 13 people died and more than 2100 were locked up in the crackdown as security forces used live rounds, baton charges and tear gas to crush protests involving up to 100,000 people.

On Saturday, protests were held in several cities around the world in support of Burma's embattled pro-democracy movement.

"What is important is that the council give a strong message in support of Professor Gambari," a South African diplomat said as he went into the meeting.

The diplomat predicted agreement on a text by Wednesday at the earliest.

Italy's UN Ambassador Marcello Spatafora for his part stressed that it was urgent for the council to send a "strong, unified' message to Burma's ruling junta.

"There's a sense of urgency to send a strong message, a unified message, at the right moment. That is now," he said.

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

China, which has close ties with Burma and favours constructive engagement with its military regime, warned last week that putting pressure on the ruling generals "would lead to confrontation".

China's UN envoy Wang Guangya Friday urged members to adopt "a prudent and responsible approach".

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 Mr 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 South-East Asian country an internal matter and not a threat to broader peace and security.

Last January, China and Russia used a rare double veto to block a US-sponsored draft resolution that would have called on Burma's rulers to free all political detainees and end sexual violence by the military.

In a conciliatory move apparently aimed at forestalling tough council condemnation, Burma'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 rangoon.

And junta chief Than Shwe named the deputy labour 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 symbolise Burma's peaceful struggle for democracy, has spent most of the past 18 years under house arrest.

On Friday, Mr Gambari had said that all council members agreed the status quo in Burma "is unacceptable and unsustainable" and backed his plan to pay a return visit to Burma before mid-November.

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