EU agrees extra Burma sanctions

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The Independent Online

The European Union yesterday widened its sanctions against Burma, adding a ban on imports of timber, gemstones and precious metals in response to the military junta's crackdown on pro-democracy groups.

The EU foreign ministers said in a statement it was "necessary to increase direct pressure on the regime" in Burma.

They banned exports of equipment used in the country's timber and mining industries, and prohibited EU nations from importing from or investing in those sectors.

The measures - which come on top of an existing travel ban on Burmese officials, an arms embargo and a freeze of Burmese assets - "do not harm the general population but ... target those responsible for the violent crackdown and the overall political stalemate" in Myanmar, the statement said.

"This is a considerable sharpening of our sanctions," said Deputy Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans.

But the EU shied away from targeting Burmese oil and gas exports or preventing European companies from operating in those sectors. It also said EU humanitarian aid will continue.

Officials said the EU continues to fully back efforts by UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari to sway Burma's junta to end the crackdown on opposition groups.

"They must engage with the process being led by Ambassador Gambari ... to create a political process involving all parties in Burma," David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary, told reporters.

"If they do that, then there will be economic incentives and economic support for the people of Burma," he said. "If the regime refuses, then obviously there will be further sanctions."

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said delaying the start of the new sanctions would give Gambari "the necessary leeway" to make progress in negotiations.

Ferrero-Waldner said the EU wants to see political prisoners released, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

She said the EU must "to engage increasingly" neighboring nations - China, India and Thailand - that conduct the most trade with Burma's military regime.

Earlier, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged the world's largest economies to support Burma's recovery if the junta agrees to democratic reforms.

But he said Britain would push for tough sanctions if the junta does not end the violence against its own people.

"We cannot forget the images on our television screens of monks and ordinary citizens in Burma protesting; nor the death and human rights abuses we know are still taking place," Brown said from London.

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