Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Burma Democracy Talks Fail to Sway Junta, U.S. and UN Say

By Bill Varner and Michael Heath

March 10 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed disappointment today at the refusal of Burma's military government to take steps toward democracy.

UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari ended a five-day visit to Burma during which the junta said it won't allow officials from the world body to observe May's referendum on a new constitution and rejected a proposed amendment to allow opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to run for office. Gambari left without a meeting with junta leader General Than Shwe.

``It is not encouraging,'' U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters in New York. He said the UN Security Council should receive a report from Gambari as soon as possible and then consider measures to ``incentivize'' the junta to cooperate with him.

``We have not been able to achieve as much as we had hoped,'' Ban said during a news conference at the UN. He vowed to continue to ``press the issues'' with Burma's leaders.

Burma's junta last month announced the referendum and plans to hold elections in 2010 as part of a ``road map'' to a multiparty democracy in the Southeast Asian country formerly known as Burma. The Bush administration has criticized the process, saying it isn't fair and doesn't pass ``the laugh test.''

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won Burma's last elections in 1990, a result rejected by the military. The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.

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