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U.S. bid to push Myanmar reforms is vetoed

January 13, 2007|Maggie Farley | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — China and Russia vetoed a U.S.-drafted resolution Friday that would have demanded Myanmar's military regime end political repression and human rights violations, insisting that the Southeast Asian nation's internal matters don't threaten international peace and security.

The proposed U.N. measure underlined the need "to minimize the risks to peace and security in the region," including the flow of refugees fleeing the regime, trafficking in drugs and humans, and the spread of diseases. It also urged Myanmar to speed its transition to democracy and become more inclusive.

U.S. negotiators had tried to soften the draft to win China and Russia's support, or at least their abstentions. But Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya said the dilutions did not help.

"It's not a matter of the substance," he said. "It's a matter of principle, because we don't think it is a matter for the Security Council."

Similar problems exist in many other countries, Wang said, and China thinks there are other ways to persuade governments to improve domestic conditions.

South Africa also voted against the draft resolution; Indonesia, Qatar and Congo abstained. The U.S., Britain, France, Slovakia, Peru, Ghana, Belgium, Italy and Panama voted in favor of the measure.

Acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro D. Wolff said the United States was "deeply disappointed."

"This resolution would have been a strong and urgently needed statement by the Security Council about the need for change in Burma," he said. Washington calls the nation by its old name, Burma, to show its distaste for the regime.

The U.S. pushed for more than a year to get the Security Council to discuss Myanmar. Friday's resolution, the first on Myanmar to be presented to the council, was taken up over China and Russia's objections.

The U.S., backed by Britain, forged ahead with a vote in order to highlight China and Russia's opposition. The two countries traditionally reject resolutions that appear to infringe on a nation's sovereignty, frustrating Security Council members who say human rights and security should trump borders.

"We were staking out what we thought was important," said Britain's deputy ambassador, Karen Pierce, after the vote. "It says more about China and Russia that they want to give comfort to a regime like Burma's than about the Security Council's right to address it."

Myanmar's U.N. ambassador, Kyaw Tint Swe, thanked the members who stood up for Myanmar and said his country would continue to cooperate with the U.N.

But former political prisoner Aung Din of the U.S. Campaign for Burma said the countries that rejected the resolution "effectively signal to the Burmese military junta to continue its crimes against humanity and its war on its own citizens."

Myanmar's regime took power in 1988 after quashing the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for much of the last 18 years.

maggie.farley@latimes.com

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