The U.N. Security Council has formally placed Burma on its permanent agenda as a threat to international peace and security. The move comes days before first lady Laura Bush hosts a U.N. meeting on Burma's humanitarian crisis.
The United States succeeded in placing Burma, also known as Myanmar, on the Council's peace and security agenda, over strong objections from Russia and China. Two earlier attempts had failed over the past year, and diplomats say a closed-door session Friday was marked by sharp verbal exchanges.
In the end, the issue was brought to a formal vote. Ten of the 15 Council members voted in favor, one more than the nine necessary for adoption. But Russia and China voted no, along with Congo and Qatar. A fifth member, Tanzania, abstained
Because it was a procedural vote, China and Russia were unable to use their veto power to block the measure. But speaking through an interpreter, China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya ridiculed the decision, saying it was not supported by other southeast Asian countries. He called the move "a far cry from reality".
"This is preposterous. In fact, neither neighbors of Myanmar or the majority of ASEAN recognize Myanmar as threat to peace and security. Without seeking consent of the country, or the request of any country in region, some countries across the ocean believe Myanmar is threat to international peace and security," he said.
After the vote, America's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton signaled Washington's intention to ask the Council to look into Burma's human rights record. But he said no further action is planned immediately.
"This is a major step forward for President Bush's effort to bring to the attention of the international community the situation inside Burma, and its effects in its region and around the world, what we see as a threat to international peace and security because of the flows of refugees, illicit narcotics, HIV/AIDS and the human rights situation inside Burma," he said.
Bolton said the first step will be to ask that U.N. officials regularly brief the Council on conditions in Burma.
The Council action came as first lady Laura Bush is planning to host a roundtable discussion on Burma's humanitarian crisis next week during the U.N. General Assembly debate. Mrs. Bush's office says the meeting is aimed at raising awareness of conditions in Burma and gaining support for a possible Security Council resolution condemning the country's rights record.
The United States has been at the forefront of efforts to win the release of detained Burmese democracy activist and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been under house arrest for more than 10 of the past 17 years.
The ruling military junta in Rangoon recently extended Aung San Suu Kyi's detention for another year, ignoring an international outcry. The military junta took power in 1988, after crushing a pro-democracy movement. In 1990, the junta refused to hand over power after Aung San Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory in general elections.