US threatens if Burma rejects UN demands

New York (dpa) - The United States said Thursday that it would seek to impose "stronger measures" if Burma's military regime continues to refuse to implement democratic reforms and release political prisoners, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said following a UN Security Council meeting that UN special envoy for Burma Ibrahim Gambari must bring back "concrete results" from his scheduled mid-August visit to Burma.

"If they don't cooperate in a time-bound negotiation on the issue of the release of political prisoners, and if they try to buy time with the visit of Gambari, then there will be Security Council's focus on this issue," Khalilzad told reporters.

Khalilzad said that Gambari must bring back an "agreed road map" for political changes and ensure wide participation in the 2010 general elections in Burma, which has been ruled by the military for more than four decades.

The military regime has been trying to prevent Suu Kyi, leader of the National League of Democracy, to take part in the elections on the grounds that she was married to a Briton, who died while she has been house for more than 10 years.

Khalilzad said that the US expects progress from Gambari's discussion with the military authorities, including a UN role in the democratic process in Burma.

"If there is no progress on the political track, we'll have to look at other measures to bear on the regime," Khalilzad said.

Gambari's visit next month will be his fourth to Burma as UN envoy. He held discussions with the military authorities, Suu Kyi and political parties in the past but apparently obtained no significant political changes from authorities.

Khalilzad threatened "measures" rather than specifically sanctions, obviously to avoid a confrontation with Security Council members China and Russia, which oppose the imposition of sanctions. He insisted that the US would demand "stronger measures" if Suu Kyi and other political prisoners were not set free.

The US ambassador criticized the military regime for not allowing greater access and more relief supplies for victims of cyclone Nargis, which struck the impoverished country in early May, killing more than 100,000 people. Currently, an estimated 2.5 million people need assistance because of the destruction caused by the cyclone.

He said that Burma's regime should now work with Gambari to move toward democracy.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Wednesday with a group of countries to discuss Gambari's upcoming visit. The group expressed "strong support" for Ban's efforts and raised their expectations about Gambari's visit.

The group called for "tangible progress on the issues of concern to the international community, particularly with regard to the resumption of dialogue between Suu Kyi and the government, the credibility of the electoral process and the regularization of engagement of the good offices of the secretary general."

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