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UN Security Council Says Progress Too Slow in Burma


The U.N. Security Council says progress has been too slow in bringing democratic reforms to Burma, and has called for an early visit to the country by the Secretary-General's Special Advisor, Ibrahim Gambari. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

In a statement following its discussions with Gambari, the Security Council said it regretted the slow rate of progress in meeting objectives set out last October, following the military government's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Those objectives include democratic reforms, full respect for human rights and an end to forced labor and the repression of ethnic minorities.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad says the Security Council needs to increase pressure on the military regime to foster success.

"A policy of both engagement, on the one hand through Mr. Gambari, and pressure on the other hand, and a preparedness to increase the pressure as appropriate, is the right mix for the Council to adopt," said Zalmay Khalilzad.

He says countries with influence, such as China and India, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) - need to encourage more progress and cooperation with Gambari's efforts.

The U.N. envoy visited Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, twice last year following the violent crackdown. The Council said Thursday that another visit could help facilitate progress. Gambari says there have been problems organizing his return.

"I had requested to go there this month, they have sent word that it is not convenient and that they prefer mid-April," said Ibrahim Gambari. "The Secretary-General has said that is not acceptable and I agree. We are in the process of negotiating an early, rather than a later, return to Myanmar."

He says there are many issues still on the table and the sooner he can return, the better.

While Gambari says the regional neighbors have expressed support for his mission, he wants to see that translated into concrete action, and that there is still more everybody can do.

The military crackdown began in mid-August, after the government raised fuel prices, sparking protests. The Burmese government says at least 10 people died during the crackdown and thousands were arrested. Pro-democracy activists say the death toll was much higher.

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