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U.N. Security Council agrees to condemn Myanmar violence, urge military restraint

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council agreed on a statement on Wednesday that condemns violence against Myanmar protesters and urges military restraint, diplomats said, but dropped language condemning the army takeover as a coup and threatening possible further action due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.

FILE PHOTO: The United Nations logo is seen at the 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 23, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The British-drafted statement, which had to be agreed by consensus, now has to be formally adopted at a council meeting.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the army ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in a Feb. 1 coup, detained her and officials of her National League for Democracy party and set up a ruling junta of generals.

The military complained of fraud in a November election. The election commission said the vote was fair.

“The Security Council strongly condemns the violence against peaceful protestors, including against women, youth and children,” according to the agreed statement, seen by Reuters. “The council calls for the military to exercise utmost restraint and emphasizes that it is following the situation closely.”

The council also expresses deep concern at restrictions on medical personnel, civil society, labor union members, journalists and media workers, and “calls for the immediate release of all those detained arbitrarily.”

More than 60 people have been killed and some 1,800 people detained in a crackdown on daily protests against the coup around the southeast Asian nation, an advocacy group has said. Dozens of journalists are among those arrested.

The council statement “expresses its continued support for the democratic transition in Myanmar, and stresses the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and uphold the rule of law.”

The negotiations over the text, which began after a closed briefing on Friday, signaled that the council could struggle to do much more on Myanmar. Russia and China, who are council veto powers along with the United States, France and Britain, have traditionally shielded Myanmar from any strong council action.

An initial draft of Wednesday’s statement, seen by Reuters, condemned the military coup and said the council was ready “to consider possible further measures,” which is generally seen as code for sanctions. But diplomats said Russia, China, India and Vietnam all proposed amendments and that language was dropped.

An independent U.N. human rights investigator on Myanmar and New York-based Human Rights Watch have called on the Security Council to impose a global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions on the junta.

Security Council efforts on Myanmar were limited to two statements after a 2017 military crackdown sent hundreds of thousands Rohingya Muslims fleeing into Bangladesh and led to U.N. accusations of ethnic cleansing, which the army denied.

In a statement to the press days after the coup, the council expressed concern over the state of emergency imposed by the Myanmar military and called for the release of all those detained.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell

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