Burma's foreign minister has blamed "political opportunists" for the current situation in his country. Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly Monday, U Nyan Win said the military crackdown was necessary to restore law and order. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

In a direct reference to the United States, Britain and other Western nations, Burma's foreign minister says in recent years his country has witnessed "the ugly head of neo-colonialism," adding that the destiny of each country can only be determined by its government and its people, and not imposed from the outside.

Speaking of the violent actions his government has taken against peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators in recent weeks, Win says the situation would not have deteriorated had the initial protests against the rise in fuel prices not been exploited by what he termed "political opportunists."

"They sought to turn the situation into a political showdown aided and abetted by some powerful countries," said U Nyan Win.

He says the demonstrators also took advantage of protests staged by an initially small group of Buddhist monks.

"The security personnel exercised utmost restraint and they did not intervene for nearly a month," he said. "However, when the mob became unruly and provocative, they were compelled to declare a curfew. Subsequently, when protesters ignored their warnings, they had to take action to restore the situation. Normalcy has now returned to Myanmar."

But he made no mention of the deaths or injuries caused by the security forces during the crackdown.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has sent his special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, to Burma. Gambari has already met with some government officials, but is awaiting a meeting Tuesday with Senior General Than Shwe On Sunday, he also met for over an hour with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for nearly 12 of the last 18 years.

The Burmese foreign minister cited his government's reception of the U.N. envoy as evidence of its willingness to cooperate with the United Nations.

Last week, President Bush announced new economic sanctions against members of Burma's military government, and urged other nations to follow suit.