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Concerned UNSC sends envoy

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was expected to leave for the region immediately.

world Updated: Sep 27, 2007 23:07 IST

After initial resistance from China, the UN Security Council issued a statement of concern about Myanmar’s violent crackdown on Buddhist monks and urged the military regime to let in a special envoy.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, was expected to leave for the region immediately after briefing the emergency council meeting on Wednesday on the fatal violence.

Council diplomats said China, which has close economic ties to Myanmar, did not want any document issued after the closed-door session but relented and agreed to a brief statement, which was read to reporters by France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert.

“Members of the council have expressed their concern vis a vis the situation, and have urged restraint, especially from the government of Myanmar,” the statement said.

The junta’s forces opened fire on anti-government protesters in the centre of the country’s largest city, Yangon, killing at least one person.

Dissident groups have claimed the casualty count is higher, with as many as five people killed, including monks. Ban called on Myanmar’s government to exercise its “utmost restraint” and later met one-on-one with Myanmar’s Foreign Minister Nyan Win. On the way to the meeting, a reporter asked about the five reported deaths and Win replied: “You asked if five people died and we said no.”

The council’s statement said it “welcomed the decision by the secretary-general to urgently dispatch his special envoy to the region and underlines the importance that Gambari be received by the authorities of Myanmar as soon as possible.” The US and the council’s EU members — Britain, France, Italy and Belgium — had condemned the attacks and called on the country’s military rulers to stop the violence and open a dialogue with pro-democracy leaders.

“What’s going on in Burma is outrageous,” US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after a luncheon meeting of ministers from the eight major industrialised nations. “The regime needs to stop using violence against peaceful people and get to a dialogue so that they can have reconciliation.”

China and Russia contend that the situation in Myanmar is an internal affair and doesn’t threaten international peace and security — as required for Security Council action — so getting them to agree to the press statement was considered a positive step. “It is a huge breakthrough,” Yvonne Terlingen, UN representative for Amnesty International, said on Wednesday night.