US President George W Bush will announce new US sanctions against Myanmar's military rulers on Tuesday and call for more international pressure on the repressive regime, the White House said Monday.
Bush was to unveil the new steps in a speech to the UN General Assembly as part of a campaign to squeeze Yangon and "to try and force the regime into a change," US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters.
"He is going to announce that there will be additional sanctions directed at key members of the regime, and those that provide financial support to them," he said aboard the president's official Air Force One airplane.
Hadley said that the unpopular Bush, weighed down by the war in Iraq, would announce a visa ban on "key individuals associated with the negative activities of the regime, including their families" as well as financial sanctions.
Bush will emphasize the importance of international support for pro-democracy and human rights groups inside Myanmar "that are trying to deal with the needs of the people of Burma on the ground," said the adviser.
"And he will call for the United Nations and for other countries there to do all they can to support a process of political change in Burma," he said as Bush traveled to New York for the international meeting.
But Hadley declined to spell out further details, arguing that he needed to preserve "a little element of surprise" so that those targeted "don't, quite frankly, hide their assets before the snactions come into force.
"So we're going to be a little bit, intentionally a little vague on what is intended, so that they will have their intended effect," said Hadley, who suggested that some of Washington's allies and partners would join the effort.
"I think you're going to see a number of countries speak out, and I think there has been an increasing awareness about the viciousness of this regime and the opportunity that we might have actually to get a transition," he said.
"So I think you're going to see a number of countries joining in this effort. There's a real opportunity here," said the adviser.
Bush's planned announcement was to come after weeks of diplomatic wrangling by Washington in support of tougher sanctions against the regime in Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- with no apparent success at forging a consensus.
"Our hope is to marry that internal pressure with some external pressure -- coming from the United States, the United Nations, and really all countries committed to freedom," said Hadley.
He said the sanctions would "try and force the regime into a change, and one that ... will release all political prisoners and permit an evolution towards democracy and freedom in Burma."
He spoke as global support poured in for protestors in Myanmar, while the country's military rulers threatened to "take action" against Buddhist monks who have led the country's largest demonstration in nearly 20 years.
World leaders urged the Yangon junta to show restraint and warned the regime would be held accountable for any violent crackdown on the march, which numbered 100,000 people Monday in a major challenge to the military regime, emboldened after a march to see the country's democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
China, among Myanmar's closest allies and biggest military suppliers, has previously insisted it would not pressure the junta to open up, saying it did not wish to interfere in the internal affairs of another country.
But in a rare move this month, Beijing's top diplomatic advisor Tang Jiaxuan gently nudged the junta to adopt democratic changes.
The swelling protests in Myanmar followed a landmark day Saturday, when the army allowed about 2,000 monks and civilians to pass a roadblock and gather by the lakeside Yangon house which has been Aung San Suu Kyi's prison for 12 of the past 18 years.
Amnong those praising the peaceful nature of the demonstrations but urging against retaliatory action was UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Ban "commends the peaceful approach the demonstrators are using to press their interests and he calls upon the Myanmar authorities to continue to exercise restraint," he said in a statement.
The latest show of dissent follows weeks of protests sparked by a massive fuel price hike, leaving observers concerned about a potential repeat of the violence seen in a 1988 crackdown on protesters that left hundreds if not thousands dead.
It was unclear whether the steps announced by Bush would complicate his invitation earlier this month for Myanmar to send a representative to his adoptive home state of Texas for a conference with Southeast Asian leaders.