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UN Envoy in Burma to Try to Mediate Protests


Ibrahim Gambari arrived today Saturday in Rangoon and then headed for the administrative capital, Naypyidaw, for talks with military leaders.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent Gambari to Burma on "an urgent mission" to try to broker talks between protesters and the generals who run the country.

Soldiers and police are maintaining tight control over the capital city of Rangoon today, and have dispersed small and scattered protests.

At one protest, witnesses say security forces charged a crowd of demonstrators, beat many and arrested five. Also, sources say a group of monks led a demonstration in the city of Pakokku, southwest of (Burma's second largest city) Mandalay.

Military squads in Rangoon and Mandalay have raided and cordoned off Buddhist monasteries, and detained monks accused of instigating the demonstrations.

Since Wednesday, Burmese security forces have used gunfire to disperse thousands of protesters. The official death toll is 10, but there are fears the actual number may be far higher.

Human rights groups and exiles with contacts in Burma say the Internet and most other forms of electronic communications were cut off.

The U.S. announced new sanctions that will deny permission for many Burmese officials and their relatives to enter the United States. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has expressed "revulsion" at the situation in Rangoon and called on Burma to halt the violence.

Protests in Rangoon and other Burmese cities began last month after the military abruptly doubled fuel prices. The original demonstrations have expanded into a broad demand for democratic reforms.

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