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United Nations special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari said on Tuesday he witnessed positive changes in the country, but also stressed there is much work to do there.

Speaking before the United Nations Security Council in New York City for the first time since his return from a trip to Myanmar, Gambari said that "serious concerns remain about ongoing reports of human rights abuses and the willingness of the government to move forward in an expeditious manner in a new direction."

Gambari's visit to Myanmar was aimed at brokering talks between the junta and the pro-democracy opposition.

"I'm therefore pleased that I was able to have a very frank and very extensive discussion with all my counterparts on Myanmar's effort to meet international concern and expectations in the wake of the recent demonstrations," said Gambari.

While in Myanmar, Gambari was able to meet many top officials, but didn't meet senior General Than Shwe.

Also, Myanmar's government rejected a proposed three-way meeting involving pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a junta member and Gambari to promote reconciliation.

Gambari stressed during his report to the Security Council that the only way there can be meaningful discussion between the sides is if Suu Kyi is released from the house arrest she is currently under.

"I have stressed to the government that the best way to make real commitment to dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is to release her without delay, so that she can become a full partner in the dialogue that we all envisage," Gambari said.

As a result of Gambari's trip, Suu Kyi was allowed to meet the leaders of her opposition party on Friday for the first time in three years.

Gambari said it was a positive step that Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years in detention, and has been held continuously since the end of May 2003, was allowed to meet with her political colleagues.

Gambari ended his report with on an optimistic note saying promises made by Myanmar's government would lead to peace if followed.

"The process is now in motion that will hopefully lead to a substantive dialogue with concrete outcomes within an agreed time frame between the leadership of SPDC and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. In order to succeed, such a dialogue will require flexibility on all sides, but I am convinced that is the only way forward for Myanmar," Gambari said.

Speaking shortly after Gambari, Kyaw Tint Swe, Myanmar's Ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council peace had been restored in Myanmar since the September uprising.

"Peace and stability have been restored in Myanmar and life has returned to normal all over the country. Curfew has been lifted in total and there have been no arrests in connection with the demonstrations. Almost all those detained in connection with September unrest have been released," said Kyaw Tint Swe.

On the issue of possible economic sanctions brought against Myanmar Kyaw Tint Swe said that would be unhelpful at this time.

"This is a time for encouragement and not for undue outside pressure. The good officers rule mandated by the General Assembly should be allowed to play its collective role in facilitating the national reconciliation process. The council should provide encouragement and refrain from taking any action at this critical juncture," he said.

However, the United States and Britain said the recent arrests of prominent dissidents raised doubts about the regime's sincerity in cooperating with the UN.

They also criticised the government for dictating special UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari's schedule during his visit earlier this month and for denying him a meeting with junta chief Senior General Than Shwe.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad said sanctions are a possibility:

"We do not rule out sanctions," he told reporters after the Security Council session. There are unilateral sanctions, multilateral sanctions, some of our European colleagues talked about EU moving toward additional sanctions. Neither engagement nor sanctions are ends within themselves. They are means to achieve a goal. The goal in this case is reconciliation, substantive reconciliation, transition to democracy, release of prisoners," he added.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won elections in 1990, but the military refused to honour the results.

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