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Britain Prepared to Offer Burma Aid in Exchange for Reform


While applauding the latest round of EU sanctions to be imposed on Burma's military government, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he would be willing to offer economic aid if the ruling elite embraces democratic reform. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says Burma's military government is repressive, illegal, and undemocratic.

Speaking in the House of Commons, he welcomed the move by EU foreign ministers to strengthen existing trade sanctions on Burma in response to the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations two weeks ago.

While holding out the prospect of even tougher sanctions if required, Mr. Brown also has been working on a separate approach. The prime minister has written to world leaders outlining an economic recovery package if Burma's leaders introduce democratic reforms.

"Our strategy is not only to push the regime to change, but to offer for a new regime, new government support in economic development and social improvement, and I believe that all countries around the world, including China and the Asian countries, will be prepared to support this initiative," said Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown says Britain would be willing to invest in a plan that would attack poverty in Burma.

"We are ready to support with funds a reinvestment program so that the poverty and injustice and inequality that exists in Burma can be tackled if there is a move towards reconciliation and democracy in that country," added Mr. Brown.

As to the new European Union measures agreed on in Luxembourg, Brown says they represent a good first step.

"The sanctions that have been agreed by the European Union this week are important sanctions to deal with the export and import of timber, but we must move forward and look at investment sanctions as well," he said. "The Burmese regime must know that unless they change, we will step up the sanctions against their regime. At the same time, we support the efforts of Mr. [Ibrahi] Gambari, the United Nations envoy who is now in the region, and I hope he will be given the chance to meet a wide range of people in Burma so that he can assess the situation."

Critics point out that for new sanctions to have a real impact, restrictions on the single largest source of revenue for Burma's government - the oil and gas sector - must be considered.

Burma's military government says it is still detaining about 500 demonstrators. U.N. envoy Gambari is expected return for direct talks with the Burmese leaders in mid-November.

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