U.S. seeks tougher U.N. scolding for Myanmar
UNITED NATIONS |
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday circulated a new and tougher draft statement to the U.N. Security Council scolding Myanmar for ignoring U.N. demands to free prisoners and deal fairly with the opposition.
Washington hopes the U.N. Security Council will unanimously agree to issue the non-binding statement very soon so that Myanmar's military junta can reflect on its message before a key constitutional referendum scheduled for May 10.
A draft of the statement, obtained by Reuters, says it regrets slow progress by the junta in meeting previous council demands for political dialogue and release of political prisoners and calls for planned elections to be open to all candidates.
Diplomats said the United States prepared the draft in consultation with France and Britain.
The draft was similar to an earlier version circulated two weeks ago, although it included tougher language in at least one key section -- telling Myanmar that it expects the council's demands to be met "on an urgent basis."
This is stronger than the wording of the previous draft, which said the demands should be met "in a timely manner."
It said that if the May referendum and elections planned for 2010 were to be "inclusive and credible," the junta must "allow full participation of all political actors," including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It called on the military to move quickly to a genuine dialogue with Suu Kyi.
BAN SUU KYI
The proposed new constitution would ban Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, from standing for election because she was once married to a foreigner. Her party, the main opposition in Myanmar, has urged its supporters to vote "no" in the poll.
While not binding, so-called presidential statements by the council require the assent of all members and an earlier statement, issued on October 11, 2007, jolted Myanmar because it was backed by China, generally seen as an ally of the junta.
That statement came shortly after Myanmar's government cracked down on monk-led pro-democracy protests. China will also have to be persuaded to back the new statement, which would be passed just ahead of the referendum, a key step in a much criticized plan by the junta to restore civilian rule.
Diplomats said the new draft on Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, would likely be acceptable to most members of the 15-nation council though it was unclear how China would react.
They said there was a possibility that Washington could persuade Beijing to back the statement for a number of reasons, such as the fact that the junta has not complied with previous council demands and China's desire to lessen fallout from its recent crackdown in Tibet, which sparked worldwide protests.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that the statement was intended to send "a strong message to the regime but also to the ... people of Burma and to the world."
"The council cannot be silent, should not be silent in the face of what has happened and what has not happened," he said.
British Ambassador John Sawers also voiced his support for the new statement. "I think it's important that the council express itself before the referendum," he told reporters.
(Editing by Sandra Maler and Bill Trott)
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