Junta told that UN 'deplores' Burmese violence

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The UN Security Council has condemned the crackdown against peaceful demonstrators in Burma, calling for a release of "all political prisoners" and a dialogue between the junta and the symbol of democracy in the country, Aung San Suu Kyi.

But the price of securing the agreement of China and Russia to take the first Security Council action regarding Burma meant that Western countries in the 15-member council agreed to water down a draft statement that had originally demanded a transition to democracy in the country. The formal statement required a consensus among all 15 members in order to be adopted.

The council nevertheless sent a strong message to the junta in the statement which "strongly deplores the use of violence against peaceful demonstrations" and "emphasises the importance of the early release of all political prisoners and remaining detainees".

The violent suppression of the protests at the end of last month, led by Burmese monks, which triggered international protests, is still continuing as demonstrators are being hunted down.

The junta said 10 people were killed and nearly 2,100 arrested but Western leaders including Gordon Brown have expressed fears the death toll is much higher than admitted. Thousands of monks have been seized and are reported to have suffered abuse and torture.

The Security Council urged the junta to "to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all concerned parties and ethnic groups, in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation with the direct support of the United Nations". The junta should also "consider seriously" the proposals of the UN envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, who is to return to the region next week in hopes of obtaining an unconditional dialogue between Ms Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, and the junta leader, Than Shwe.

"The Security Council also calls on the Government of Myanmar (Burma) to take all necessary measures to address the political, economic, humanitarian, and human rights issues that are the concern of its people and emphasises that the future of Myanmar lies in the hands of all of its people, " the statement said.

The council action came after protracted negotiations, particularly a five-hour session lasting into the night on Wednesday. At the end of that session, the French ambassador, Jean-Maurice Ripert, said that two countries were "isolated." He did not name them but they were believed to be Russia and China which have fought to keep Burma off the Security Council's agenda on the grounds that a country's internal affairs are not a matter for the council.

China, which is Burma's largest trading partner, is universally considered as being the only country with political influence over the Burmese junta. China and Russia also believe that it would be counterproductive to talk of sanctions, the favoured approach of the Bush administration.

"We believe that the situation there is relaxing and turning in a positive direction," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said yesterday. "The international community should help in a constructive way to help Myanmar to realise stability, reconciliation, democracy and development."

Human Rights Watch has urged the security council to impose a UN arms embargo, pointing out that India, China, Russia, and other nations are supplying Burma with weapons used by the regime to crush dissent and bolster its power.

State-run newspapers blame Western governments and media for fomenting the unrest

* Rolls-Royce announced yesterday it would end all business with Burma. It said it would halt aircraft engine repair work and terminate a contract involving the lease of an aircraft to a Burmese airline. A spokesman said last night: "At that point, Rolls-Royce will have no further involvement in Burma."