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US, Australia put pressure on Myanmar, Fiji

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States and Australia will press military governments in Myanmar and Fiji to respect human rights and pave the way for democracy.

world Updated: Nov 07, 2010 11:04 IST

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States and Australia will press military governments in Myanmar and Fiji to respect human rights and pave the way for democracy.

Wrapping up her two-week Asia tour in Australia, the chief US diplomat again condemned the military junta in Myanmar, which on Sunday was holding its first election in 20 years amid complaints of intimidation. "We look at Burma today holding flawed elections that once again expose the abuses of the military junta," Clinton said. "And it's heartbreaking because the people of Burma deserve so much better," she said. "And Australia and the United States will continue to work together to establish an international commission of inquiry to hold those leaders in Burma accountable for human rights violations (and) continuing persecution of ethnic minorities," she said.

Activists have long sought an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in the country, with which President Barack Obama's administration initiated dialogue last year. Delivering a speech in Hawaii on October 28 at the start of her seven-country trip across Asia, Clinton offered the most explicit US backing yet for a probe, which could lead to international warrants for junta leaders.

As Myanmar held its vote, democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi remained locked up and two pro-military parties are together fielding about two-thirds of the total candidates, leaving the splintered opposition with little chance of success.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner swept her party to power in 1990 but the result was never recognised by the ruling generals. She has been detained for most of the past 20 years and is supporting a boycott of Sunday's election.

Clinton also vowed to keep up the pressure on military-ruled Fiji, seized by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama in a 2006 coup. "We are going to be working together with Australia to persuade the military government in Suva to meet its commitment to bring democracy back to Fiji," Clinton said.

"In the short term, we would like to see steps that advance political freedom, such as allowing professional civilians to return to key government ministries," Clinton said. Bainimarama has grown increasingly isolated from the international community with a rule-by-decree regime and strict censorship which he has defended by saying he does not trust his own people.

Clinton later held talks with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who has offered solid support for the US-led international mission to stabilize Afghanistan. Clinton said Afghanistan, cyber security, counter-terrorism, the peaceful use of outer space and China's monopoly on strategic rare earths minerals are all topics that will come up here Monday during annual security talks.

Gillard said the implications of China's rise would be a key topic at the talks, and the two countries would explore expanding the US military presence in Australia and boosting collaboration between its defence forces.

"I believe we have a shared perspective with the United States that we want China to be a force for good, strongly engaged in global and regional architecture, strongly engaged in a rules-based framework," Gillard said ahead of her meeting with Clinton. "The best possible cooperation between our defence forces is in Australia's interest," she added.

Clinton and US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates will attend Monday's AUSMIN talks along with their Australian counterparts Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith.

Australia is the final country on an Asia Pacific tour that has taken Clinton to New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Cambodia, China and Vietnam. She is due to return to Washington on Monday via American Samoa

First Published: Nov 07, 2010 11:02 IST