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UN Special Envoy to Meet Burma's Military Leader


The office of the United Nations Secretary-General has announced that special envoy Ibrahim Gambari will meet Burma's top leader, General Than Shwe, today - Tuesday.

Officials say Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon telephoned Gambari Monday to express support for his mission and that Mr. Ban asked Gambari to call on Burmese authorities to cease repression, release detainees and move toward real democratic reforms.

Hours later, Burma's foreign minister blamed "political opportunists" for the current situation in the country.

Minister U Nyan Win told the UN General Assembly meeting in New York the military action was necessary to restore law and order. But he made no mention of the deaths or injuries caused by the security forces during the crackdown.

Earlier in the day, human rights groups throughout Asia issued a call to support a UN fact-finding mission and human rights monitoring system in Burma.

In Washington, the State Department said action by Burma's neighbors is critical to force military leaders to end their crackdown on dissent and allow political reform.

U.S. officials did not rule out additional punitive measures against Burmese military rulers but said their options are limited.

Buddhist monks led last week's mass demonstrations in Rangoon calling for freedom and democracy in military-ruled Burma.

The streets of Rangoon were reported to be quiet Monday, with security forces maintaining a heavy presence.

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