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UN Envoy: Burma Trip Yields 'No Tangible Results'

The U.N. secretary-general's special advisor on Burma gave a bleak report to the Security Council Friday on his recent visit to the military-ruled country. Ibrahim Gambari said the trip provided "no tangible results" in his efforts to move the Asian nation closer to democracy.

Ibrahim Gambari made his fifth trip to Burma at the end of January. During his four-day visit, he met with the country's prime minister and several cabinet members, but not with Senior General Than Shwe, the country's senior leader.

"I told the government that now is the time to demonstrate Myanmar's commitment to addressing concretely the issues of concern to the international community - particularly the release of political prisoners and the resumption of dialogue between the government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."

Burma is also known as Myanmar.

Gambari also met jointly with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the central executive committee of her National League for Democracy. He said that was the first time she was able to meet with her party in more than one year. She has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years.

He told reporters following his closed-door briefing to the Security Council that he has not received any official communication from the Burmese government regarding its announcement Friday that it plans to release more than 6,000 prisoners.

"I would like to see, as many would, the composition of the people who have been released. You recall that following my last visit [to Burma] in August, 9,200 prisoners were released, that included about six of whom we would call political prisoners," he said.

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said Gambari's report to the council was "very thin and disappointing."

"He was not in a position to meet with General Than Shwe. It is true he has seen Mrs. Aung San Suu Kyi - that is the minimum that could have happened. Unfortunately, he did not receive any serious sign in return of opening by the authorities of Burma. [Just] vague promises that something would be done," said Ambassador Ripert.

British Ambassador John Sawers said he was disappointed by the lack of any real progress and said the situation in Burma has in fact gone "backwards."

Asked whether U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon should visit Burma to meet with top leaders there, Sawers said there could be an opportunity for the U.N. chief to move things forward, which Gambari has been unable to do.

The secretary-general visited Burma in May after Cyclone Nargis devastated parts of that country. He has said he will not return until he thinks his visit could be productive and meaningful.

A military government has ruled Burma since 1962. Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party won the last general elections in 1990, but military leaders never recognized the results of that race.