China says Myanmar junta crackdown an 'internal affair'

By Evelyn Leopold

UNITED NATIONS - The UN Security Council has decided to hear a UN envoy's report on Myanmar at a public meeting but China said it was opposed to any "international imposed solution," saying the junta's crackdown on pro-democracy campaigners was an internal affair.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari met UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon after a four-day visit to Myanmar in which he secured the junta's agreement to meet pro-democracy figure Aung San Suu Kyi, although military leader Than Shwe set conditions for the talks to go ahead.

Other speakers invited to address the council on Friday included Ban, a delegate from Myanmar, and one from Singapore, representing the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which includes Myanmar.

Beijing's UN Ambassador Wang Guangya told reporters, "There are problems there in Myanmar but these problems still, we believe, are basically internal."

"No international-imposed solution can help the situation," Wang said. "We want the government there to handle this issue."

Western nations have urged sanctions against Myanmar, whose security forces continued on Thursday to round up and interrogate protesters after last week's huge demonstrations led by Buddhist monks against military rule.

China, which neighbours Myanmar and is one of the country's few allies and major trading partners, has called for restraint but opposes sanctions.

China and Russia in January vetoed a US-drafted Security Council resolution that demanded an end to political repression and human rights violations on grounds that the Myanmar crisis was not a threat to international peace and security.

Wang said China and its neighbours wanted to see the country "achieve stability, achieve democracy, achieve good governance, achieve a better way of life of its people."

He added: "The important thing is we have to express our concern in different ways to let the government down there understand that they have to handle the situation very carefully."

Wang said the best action the council could take was to support the efforts of Gambari, a UN undersecretary-general and former UN ambassador from Nigeria.

He said his preference had been to have a closed council meeting on Friday because Gambari could speak "more frankly." As a compromise, private consultations will follow the public meeting.

In the first official remarks since Gambari's visit earlier this week, Than Shwe said he would hold direct talks with Suu Kyi if she publicly agreed to abandon her "obstructive measures" and support for sanctions as well as "confrontational positions." He did not elaborate on how the Nobel laureate could meet the demands.

- REUTERS

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