Fri, Oct 26, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Gambari upbeat after talks in China

`VERY GOOD' Although the special UN envoy was optimistic after meeting Chinese officials, there was no indication Beijing had agreed to exert pressure on Myanmar


The UN special envoy on Myanmar gave an upbeat assessment yesterday over his meetings with Chinese officials that are aimed at helping to end the unrest in the Southeast Asian nation.

Ibrahim Gambari described the talks as "very good," and said he was looking forward to further talks before heading to Japan.

Gambari concluded the talks with China yesterday, but there was no indication Beijing had agreed to exert pressure on the junta that has brutally oppressed demonstrations.

Gambari has been visiting Asia to press neighbors -- especially India and China -- to take a tougher line against Myanmar's military government, which harshly quelled pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist clergy.

Earlier this month, US President George W. Bush also urged Beijing and New Delhi to step up pressure and follow Washington's example of applying sanctions.

But China is wary of using sanctions against any country and has major economic and strategic stakes in Myanmar, as does India. After meetings with Gambari, Chinese diplomats gave no public sign of ramping up pressure, instead repeating their argument that talk, not sanctions, is the best approach.

"The Myanmar issue, after all, has to be appropriately resolved by its own people and government through their own efforts of dialogue and consultation," State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan (唐家璇) told Gambari yesterday.

"The international community should provide constructive help for that end and should not only stick to imposing sanctions and pressure," Tang said in remarks carried by the Web site of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Tang said that Beijing wanted to see Myanmar become a country of "stability, development, democracy and reconciliation."

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) told Gambari, who did not speak to reporters in Beijing, that China would continue its efforts to help achieve a "proper resolution" in Myanmar.

China, the closest the isolated junta has to an ally, has expressed concern about the crackdown and helped bring about Gambari's visit to Myanmar earlier this month.

Beijing also joined Western powers to deplore Myanmar's crushing of the pro-democracy demonstrations in a statement by the UN Security Council.

But Beijing has stressed that the statement did not mean that it would stomach harsher action or legally binding UN resolutions against the Southeast Asian nation.

"Myanmar's problems have a complex historical background and practical causes, and they should be resolved by the government and people of Myanmar," Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei (何亞非) told Gambari on Wednesday, according to the Ministry Web site.

The Chinese official called for other nations to be "objective and balanced" over Myanmar, often called by its former name of Burma.

Before visiting China, Gambari was in India, which has also resisted wielding economic pressure against Myanmar, a country with energy resources coveted by both New Delhi and Beijing.

Delhi has promised to help push Myanmar towards democracy but stopped short of committing to concrete action.

Yesterday the Indian Foreign Minister repeated that line.

"We have shared our views and we have commonality of the approach, and let the process which began in Myanmar for the political reforms and national reconciliation, let it be taken to its logical conclusion," Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in the northeast Chinese city Harbin, where he had been meeting his Chinese and Russian counterparts.

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