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Asia-pacific

Russia, China prevent strong UN statement on Suu Kyi sentencing

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-13

After hours of debate on a UN statement condemning the sentencing of Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the UN Security Council agreed to emit a watered-down statement designed to rally the consent of China and Russia.

REUTERS - The U.N. Security Council voiced "serious concern" on Thursday about a sentence passed on Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in a watered-down statement designed to win the consent of China and Russia.

 

The statement, read to journalists by British Ambassador John Sawers, current president of the council, called for the release of all political prisoners in the Asian country.

 

A Myanmar court on Tuesday sentenced Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the past 20 years in detention, to three years in jail -- which the ruling junta then reduced to 18 months of house arrest at her lakeside home in Yangon.

 

"The members of the Security Council express serious concern at the conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and its political impact," the council statement said.

 

The statement, agreed by all 15 council members after two days of haggling among diplomats, was diluted from an original U.S. draft, which had "condemned" the verdict and specifically demanded that the junta free Suu Kyi.

 

The statement finally adopted confined itself to saying that council members "reiterate the importance of the release of all political prisoners."

 

It said the council noted the decision of the Myanmar government to reduce Suu Kyi's sentence and urged it "to take further measures to create the necessary conditions for a genuine dialogue with (her) and all concerned parties and ethnic groups in order to achieve an inclusive national reconciliation."

 

DIFFERENT VIEWS

 

Western diplomats said they would have liked a stronger statement but were anxious to issue something that China and Russia, which had originally opposed any statement at all, could agree to.

 

"I think we all know that different members of the Security Council have different views on the situation (in Myanmar) and the strong views in various Western capitals aren't entirely shared in countries elsewhere," Sawers told reporters.

 

China and Russia had argued that judicial proceedings in Myanmar were an internal affair of that country and not a threat to international peace and security justifying Security Council involvement.

 

The fact that China, a neighbor and trade partner of Myanmar, did not oppose the eventual statement was seen as evidence that Beijing was not prepared to underwrite the actions of the Myanmar junta completely.

 

The document read out by Sawers was classified as a so-called "press statement," which unlike a more formal "presidential statement" that Western powers had sought is not written into the council's official proceedings. The council's endorsement of it did not require the body to meet.

 

The charges against Suu Kyi stemmed from American intruder John Yettaw's two-day uninvited stay at her home in May, which the judge said breached the terms of her existing house arrest.
 

Date created : 2009-08-13

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