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British PM Pledges Support as Protesters Rally in London for Democracy in Burma


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged support for Burma's pro-democracy activists and urged further sanctions against that country's military government in the wake of its violent crackdown against protesters. Mr. Brown's pledge Saturday came amid a day of rallies worldwide in support of Burma's pro-democracy advocates. VOA's Sonja Pace has details from London.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with Buddhist monks and rally organizers in his offices at Number 10 Downing Street just before the demonstration got underway in central London.

"I think you know you've got the support of the British government and we'll do what we can," said Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown said he had spoken with world leaders about the situation in Burma, including with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. President George W. Bush.

He also urged further action by the international community.

"I want the Security Council to oversee a process of reconciliation in Burma led by the secretary-general, and I want the EU to impose further sanctions on the regime to make it absolutely clear that we will not tolerate the abuses taking place," he added.

A rare challenge to Burma's military government began in mid-August with street demonstrations over a rise in fuel prices. The protests grew into major anti-government and pro-democracy demonstrations with Buddhist monks at the forefront. In a violent crackdown over a week ago, troops opened fire on the demonstrators. The government says 10 people were killed but activists say the number is much higher.

At least 1,500 demonstrators marched through central London Saturday in support of Burma's pro-democracy advocates and in protest of the military government's violent crackdown against them.

Irene Kahn, the chief of the human rights group Amnesty International, said it is time the U.N. takes tough action in the form of an arms embargo against Burma.

"The military junta in Burma are not living in splendid isolation," she said. "They are thriving on the arms trade - a lucrative arms trade from many of their neighbors, including China, India and Thailand."

Kahn said the monks, students and ordinary citizens of Burma have shown greater courage in challenging the military government than has the international community.

Similar rallies were held in other European cities, including Brussels. The marches started early in the day in Asia as hundreds of demonstrators gathered in several Asian cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.