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UN Stands Behind Diplomat Being Expelled From Burma


U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has asked special advisor Ibrahim Gambari to convey strong disappointment to Burmese authorities on the government's decision to expel the highest-ranking U.N. official in the nation. Gambari is due to meet with Burmese authorities Saturday when he returns to Burma to push for reconciliation between the government and opponents. From VOA's New York Bureau, correspondent Barbara Schoetzau has the story.

Burma is expelling the U.N. regional coordinator, Charles Petrie, for an October 24 statement linking poverty in Burma to 45 years of military rule.

In a released statement that day, United Nations Day, Petrie said demonstrations against rising fuel prices that quickly turned into anti-government protests were indications of how badly Burma's economy and humanitarian situation had deteriorated.

U.N. spokesperson Michele Montas says Burma's ministry of foreign affairs wrote the United Nations that Mr. Petrie has been in Burma for a long time and should move on. She said the U.N. stands fully behind Petrie.

Montas says Secretary General Ban and Gambari met Friday at the airport in Istanbul, Turkey, where the U.N. chief gave the special envoy instructions for his visit to Burma.

"The Secretary General is disappointed by the message from Myanmar stating that it would not want the resident coordinator, Mr. Charles Petrie, to continue to in Myanmar. The Secretary General has full confidence in the United Nations' country team and its leadership and appreciates their contribution to the social, economic and humanitarian conditions for the people of Myanmar. The Secretary General has instructed the special advisor, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, to convey his views directly to the authorities when he visits the country," she said.

As head of the U.N. Development Program in Burma, Petrie is the highest-ranking U.N. official in the country. Montas says there is no such thing as a fixed term for a regional coordinator. She says the United Nations Development Program will continue its work in Burma regardless of whether Petrie leaves or stays.