- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2007

NEW YORK — U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari yesterday warned that instability in Burma could spread to other countries, a grim assessment after his four-day visit to the isolated Southeast Asian nation.

Members of a prominent dissident Burmese party led by Aung San Suu Kyi said they would reject the government’s offer to talk, after Burma’s leader, Gen. Than Shwe, stipulated that she first stop calling for sanctions and drop her confrontational stance toward the military government.

But a TV report showed the long-detained symbol against military rule with Mr. Gambari and said he met the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) twice, and held talks with regime leader General Than Shwe during his four-day visit this week.

Mrs. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent most of the past 18 years under house arrest, and her image has not appeared in state media since before her last period of detention started in 2003.

Mr. Gambari, who flew to Burma on an emergency mission to halt government attacks on peaceful demonstrators and widespread intimidation by army and intelligence services, said he urged the government to move towards accepting human rights norms and to offer wider access to aid agencies.

“Of great concern to the United Nations and the international community are the continuing and disturbing reports of abuses being committed by security and non-uniformed elements, particularly at night during curfew, including raids on homes, beatings, and disappearances,” he told the U.N. Security Council yesterday.

“The world is different than it was 20 years ago,” Mr. Gambari declared. “No country can afford to act in isolation from the standards to which the rest of the world is held.”

While in Burma, referred to by the government as Myanmar, the envoy met twice with Mrs. Suu Kyi and senior generals who run the repressive nation. But he said he was unable to talk to representatives of the monks and students who calmly rallied by the hundreds of thousands last week.

Burma’s U.N. ambassador, Kyaw Tint Swe, in a rare appearance in the U.N. spotlight, said the situation in his country was now normal, and no action would be warranted against his government.

“No Security Council action is warranted with regard to the situation in Myanmar,” the ambassador said, announcing that 2,000 detainees, including 720 monks, had been released. State television said 109 monks are still in custody for questioning.

Mr. Gambari said he was told by Gen. Than Shwe that the protests were only “minority elements” supported by outsiders.

Shari Villarosa, the senior American diplomat in Burma, called on Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint to release the political prisoners and relax the suppression of demonstrators.

“It was not a terribly edifying meeting,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. “What she heard in private was not very different than what we hear from the government in public.”

The council was faced with objections to any action by veto-armed permanent members Russia and China, both arguing that it is an internal matter and not an international threat that required a Security Council response. They said it could be best handled by specific humanitarian and human rights bodies.

However, all 15 council member-nations awaited Mr. Gambari’s briefing yesterday morning, as did an audience of saffron-robed monks and other Burmese exiles who sat prominently in the front rows of the chamber’s balcony.

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Zalmay Khalilzad pointedly noted that sanctions could be useful to compel the government to comply with international demands, even as Mr. Gambari continues to helm the diplomatic track.


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