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French FM Calls for "New Spirit" in Approach to Burma


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is calling for a fresh approach to the way the international community works to bring democracy to Burma.

Speaking with reporters in Bangkok, on the second leg of his Asian tour, Kouchner said it would be impossible to change Burma's "military regime" overnight. He said trying to do so would be counter-productive.

Kouchner did not give many details, but did question the effectiveness of sanctions against Burma. Instead he suggested the international community work more closely together to prod Burma to change.

Kouchner will travel to China on Wednesday to discuss Iran, Burma and human rights issues with officials in Beijing.

In related news, Singapore has invited Burma's newly appointed prime minister, Lieutenant-General Thein Sein, to attend an ASEAN summit in Singapore next month.

Earlier this week, during his first stop in Singapore, Kouchner proposed the creation of an international fund to provide Burma economic incentives to embrace democracy. Kouchner said Burma's military rulers must be urged to change through both sanctions and incentives.

The European Union and United States strengthened sanctions on Burma earlier this month in response to a deadly military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters there in September that officials say killed at least 10 people.

Pro-democracy activists say the death toll was much higher.

Some Information for this report is provided by AFP.

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