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EU Special Envoy Urges China to Take Action on Burma


The European Union special envoy on Burma is urging China to encourage political reconciliation in neighboring Burma, where the military government has violently suppressed dissent. As VOA's Kate Woodsome reports from Hong Kong, the envoy is appealing to China's role as an emerging world power to help the Burmese people.

The EU's Piero Fassino said in Beijing Thursday that China should use its position as a leading power in Asia, and as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, to help resolve the crisis in Burma.

Fassino says Chinese intervention in Burma is fundamental to achieve any progress there. He has been discussing the issue with Chinese officials since Tuesday.

Burma's military government stirred international anger last September when security forces opened fire on peaceful pro-democracy protesters.

A recent U.N. report says at least 31 people were killed, but Burmese activists abroad say the number is higher. Burma's government dismisses the claims. Thousands of people, including Buddhist monks, were beaten and arrested.

After the crackdown, China blocked proposed sanctions on Burma at the U.N. Security Council, saying they would be counterproductive.

Some analysts say China wants simply to maintain the status quo in neighboring Burma, which is rich in gems, timber and the natural gas China needs for its surging economy.

But Fassino says China has been trying to encourage Burma to create an atmosphere more conducive to dialogue.

He praised China for exerting a positive and decisive influence in international negotiations on North Korea's nuclear program, and said he trusts Beijing will do the same with Burma.

However, Fassino says Chinese authorities made clear to him that the Burmese must resolve their crisis on their own.

Fassino is on the first part of an Asian tour that will take him to India, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The EU strengthened sanctions against Burma's military government after the bloody crackdown.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that imposes new financial and travel restrictions on Burma's leaders and their associates. It also blocks the import of Burmese gems and timber.

The Burma Democracy Promotion Act also creates a position of special representative and policy coordinator for Burma.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill last week. It must approve the Senate version before the bill is sent to President Bush for his signature.

Military leaders have ruled Burma since 1962, turning the once-prosperous nation into a repressive state mired in economic despair.

The current government has kept opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest for more than a decade and ignored her party's overwhelming election victory in 1990.

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