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UN Rights Council Calls Emergency Session On Burma

The 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council has called an emergency session to examine the crisis unfolding in Burma, also known as Myanmar. The motion was passed after 17 members of the Council as well as 36 observer states requested the special session. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva where the Council has just wrapped up a three-week meeting.

The European Union asked for this special session because of what it calls the deteriorating situation in Burma. Portuguese ambassador, Francisco Xavier Esteves made the formal request on behalf of the EU. He says the EU regards the events in Burma or Myanmar with utmost concern and believes they require the urgent attention of the international community.

"Due to the very troubling human rights situation we have decided to ask the President of the Human Rights council to convene a special session of the HRC next Tuesday to address specifically the events in Burma/Myanmar," said Esteves. "Urgent situations require urgent action and the council must work to help find a solution."

One third of the 47-member Human Rights Council is needed to approve the motion. Only South Korea and Japan from the Asian bloc joined with the Western countries in requesting the special session. India, China and Russia, so far, have not signed on.

Esteves says the European Union strongly condemns all violence against peaceful demonstrators and calls on the Burmese authorities to work for genuine national reconciliation.

"The European Union is deeply distressed by the fact that the government of Myanmar failed to heed the appeal made earlier to exercise utmost restraint in handling demonstrations and warning that they would be held responsible by the international community for the safety of all demonstrators," said Esteves.

The Portuguese ambassador says the European Union is calling on the military junta to release all political prisoners, including Burma's detained pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi.

Esteves says the Human Rights Council next week is expected to ask the U.N.'s independent expert on Burma to investigate the human rights situation and report on his findings at the next council meeting in December.

He urges the Burmese military to allow the expert, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, to enter the country to conduct his investigation. Pinheiro, who is critical of Burma's human rights record, has been refused entry.