Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 1 News List

UN envoy arrives in Myanmar as junta threatens expulsion

AGENCIES , YANGON, MYANMAR

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari returned to army-ruled Myanmar yesterday as a row over the junta's move to kick out the UN's top resident diplomat overshadowed his mission to coax the generals to reform.

He emphasized immediately UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's backing of country chief Charles Petrie, told by the regime he was no longer welcome after highlighting a deepening economic crisis that fueled mass protests crushed by the army.

"Mr Gambari conveyed the Secretary-General's support for the country team and the resident coordinator and the important work they continue to do to improve the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation," the UN office in Yangon said.

"In this regard, Mr Gambari plans to address, with the Myanmar authorities, a range of issues, including those discussed previously, pertaining to further cooperation and dialogue between the United Nations system and Myanmar."

On the eve of his arrival, the junta accused Petrie of going beyond his duties by criticizing the regime's failure to meet the economic and humanitarian needs of its people, and by saying this was the cause of September's mass pro-democracy protests, which were violently put down by the government.

Eyewitnesses in Yangon said security forces had been reinforced in some parts of the city prior to the visit, while residents said access to the Internet was virtually impossible for the third straight day.

On Friday night, a draft resolution was circulated at the UN strongly condemning the Myanmar government's crackdown on peaceful protesters.

It called on the junta to immediately release those arrested recently, as well as all political prisoners.

If approved by the General Assembly's human rights committee, the new resolution would then need the backing of the 192-nation world body.

General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but they do reflect world opinion.

The draft resolution "strongly calls" on the junta to provide Gambari with unrestricted access to all parties -- including ethnic minority representatives, student leaders and dissident monks -- and assist him to achieve "effective progress toward the restoration of democracy and the protection of human rights in Myanmar."

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