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US, EU Ask UN to Consider New Burma Sanctions


The United States and the European Union have asked the United Nations Security Council to consider placing additional sanctions on Burma.

Following a meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York, EU and US ministers released a joint statement. In it, they called on Burma to stop using violence against protesters and to open dialogue with pro-democracy leaders.

The UN Security Council is scheduled to meet this afternoon (1900 GMT) to discuss the crisis in Burma.

Ahead of the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he will send special envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Burma on an urgent mission to look into the situation. Mr. Ban urged Burmese leaders to use the utmost restraint toward peaceful protesters.

US and European leaders today called on China to use its influence to press Burma's military regime to open a dialogue with opponents.

Chinese officials said Tuesday that China would stay out of Burma's affairs. But reports suggest China may be engaging in quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

Also today, UN human rights chief Louise Arbour urged Burma's government to abide by international laws allowing peaceful expression of dissent.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined other world leaders in condemning the crackdown. Following a meeting today with Burmese opposition politicians, Mr. Sarkozy urged French firms, including oil giant Total, to refrain from making new investments in Burma.

Earlier, France's European affairs minister (Jean-Pierre Jouyet) urged the European Union to impose stronger sanctions on Burma's government.

A US House of Representatives committee (Foreign Affairs Committee) approved a resolution today calling for the immediate and unconditional release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Tuesday, the United States announced new sanctions against Burma's generals, their supporters and families.

Italy's prime minister, Romano Prodi, called on the EU to hold an urgent meeting on the situation in Burma.

The EU earlier warned it would "reinforce and strengthen its sanctions" if the protests are put down by force.

But Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member of UN Security Council, took a different position on the protests. The Russian Foreign Ministry called interference in Burma's internal affairs counterproductive.

Information for this story is provided by Reuters and AFP.

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