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UN mediator in Burma disappointed

Latest update : 2008-03-19

UN mediator between the Burmese junta and the opposition, Ibrahim Gambari, returned from the latest rounds of talks in the country saying that nothing had been accomplished.

UN troubleshooter Ibrahim Gambari expressed disappointment Tuesday with his latest mediation in Myanmar as did Western envoys who vowed to keep the crisis in the Security Council's spotlight.
  
"Whereas each of my previous visits produced some result that could be built upon, it is a source of disappointment that this latest visit did not yield any immediate tangible outcome," Gambari told the 15-member council.
  
US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad was equally downbeat.
  
"We are disappointed by the lack of any concrete achievement" during Gambari's last visit to the southeast Asian country from March 6 to 9, he told reporters after Security Council consultations on the issue.
  
"The regime has not responded appropriately to Gambari's initiative," he added, describing as "flawed" plans by Myanmar authorities to hold a referendum on a new constitution in May and multi-party elections in 2010.
  
His British counterpart John Sawers said Gambari gave a "not very encouraging briefing" on his latest mission to promote national reconciliation between Myanmar's military government and the opposition led by democracy icon and Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
  
He said the world community's best tool to sway the ruling junta was "the power of persuasion" and keeping the issue "in the spotlight."
  
France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert meanwhile expressed alarm that the draft constitution unveiled by Myanmar authorities contained provisions aimed at preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from running in the elections.
  
"That is not acceptable," he added.
  
But Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya, whose country is a major trade partner and arms supplier of Myanmar, insisted Gambari's mission had achieved some progress.
  
"One can argue whether the glass is full or the glass is half full," he told reporters, adding: "The situation (in Myanmar) now is better than last August and September" when the military junta crushed the biggest pro-democracy protests in nearly 20 years.
  
Myanmar's envoy to the UN Kyaw Tint Swe told the council that "given the complexity of the challenges that Myanmar faces, the government has come a long way and has made significant strides in our seven-step political roadmap."
  
"Myanmar has been cooperating and will continue to cooperate with the United Nations," he added.
  
Gambari insisted that unity among the Security Council members was "the best way" to shore up his good offices mission.
  
"The United Nations is the only outsider to maintain access to both the government and Aung San Suu Kyi and to act as go-between between the two," he earlier told the council.
  
"Encouraging the Myanmar authorities to reverse a policy mindset that has lasted this long can be challenging," he added. "But it is imperative that we continue to do so with persistence and patience, and with legitimate expectations of tangible results from the process of engagement."
  
Earlier this year, he urged the ruling junta to make the constitutional process "inclusive, participatory and transparent" and to engage in a substantive and time-bound dialogue with relevant parties.
  
But on his third visit to Myanmar earlier this month, Gambari was rebuffed twice by the generals.
  
The junta refused to amend the constitution and rejected an offer of UN technical assistance and foreign observers during the referendum.
  
Gambari had two meetings with Aung San Suu Kyi but was unable to see General Tan Shwe, the head of the ruling junta. He said he had no immediate plan to make a return visit.
  
At least 31 people died in September's unrest, according to the United Nations, although Human Rights Watch put the toll at more than 100. The world outcry was swift and unified -- a consensus that has since fractured.

Date created : 2008-03-19

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