UNITED NATIONS — The Security Council held its first official meeting to discuss Myanmar on Friday, and the United States announced that it was preparing a resolution to pressure the regime to release political prisoners and stop flows of drugs, AIDS and refugees that Washington says are destabilizing the region.
U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton pushed hard to get Myanmar on the council's agenda despite objections from several quarters, and eased the way with unofficial briefings on an impending humanitarian crisis there.
Bolton said he overcame resistance from China and Russia, who believe Myanmar does not pose a grave threat to the international order; U.N. officials who have been working quietly behind the scenes to win the confidence of the country's rulers; and European allies "who thought it wasn't a priority."
"We didn't put this issue on the agenda just to have briefings," said Bolton, adding that the U.S. would present the resolution "in the very near future."
The U.N.'s chief of political affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, briefed the council on humanitarian problems in the country of 55 million and announced that he would make a second trip there soon to talk to the military regime about restoring political freedom and democracy.
Myanmar refused overtures from the U.N.'s special envoy for two years, but finally received Gambari in May. He said the country has made "measured progress" on public health and is developing a national action plan on HIV/AIDS.
Gambari argued for a careful approach that would not undo incremental progress by the reclusive regime. "We cannot simply assume that turning up the heat will yield results," he said. "Nor can engagement be an end by itself. It should lead to meaningful results."
Myanmar's foreign minister criticized the Security Council in a speech at the U.N. on Tuesday for treating his country like a threat, and he said the Southeast Asian nation has been implementing a seven-step road map to democracy.
"Myanmar has done nothing that can undermine the peace and security of any country, let alone regional or international peace and security," Foreign Minister Nyan Win said in a speech to the General Assembly.
The military has run Myanmar under various guises since 1962, and the current group of generals has been in power since 1988.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide election victory in 1990 but was denied power by the junta.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has become a popular political cause in the United States. Suu Kyi, its charismatic opposition leader who won the Nobel Peace Prize and has been under house arrest on and off for two decades, has helped galvanize world support for democratic reforms. First Lady Laura Bush was the host of a round table on the issue last week during the General Assembly meeting.