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China, Russia Veto Myanmar Resolution

The Associated Press
Sunday, January 14, 2007; 12:15 AM

UNITED NATIONS -- China and Russia blocked the Security Council from demanding an end to political repression and human rights violations in military-ruled Myanmar, rejecting a resolution proposed by the United States.

The vote was 9-3 in favor of the resolution, with South Africa joining China and Russia in the opposition. Indonesia, Qatar and the Republic of Congo abstained. While they were in the minority, China and Russia were able to kill the resolution because they have veto power as permanent members of the council.

The two argued that the U.N.'s most powerful body was not the proper forum for discussing the Southeast Asian nation because the country doesn't threaten international peace. China and Russia both have human rights records that have frequently been criticized.

Myanmar's U.N. Ambassador Kyaw Tint Swe thanked China and Russia and the countries that abstained. Had the resolution been adopted "it would have created a dangerous precedent," he said.

State media, which closely reports the junta line, praised the outcome Sunday. The New Light of Myanmar called it a "victory for the people of the international community and the people of Myanmar who love truth."

Multiple vetoes in the Security Council are rare, raising questions about unity in the months ahead when the council will have to deal with difficult issues including Sudan's conflict-wracked Darfur region and the follow-up to sanctions against North Korea and Iran.

Myanmar's junta took power in 1988 after crushing the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for much of the last 18 years. Hundreds of her supporters remain in prison.

"This resolution would have been a strong and urgently needed statement by the Security Council about the need for change in Burma," said Acting U.S. ambassador Alejandro Wolff, using Myanmar's former name.

Still, he said, "the people of Burma should not be disheartened" because the vote reflected differences over the Security Council's jurisdiction, not about their plight.

All 15 council members "recognize that there are problems in the areas of human rights, social issues, political freedom," he said.

The last multiple veto was in 1989 by the U.S., Britain and France on a Panama resolution and the last double veto by China and the former Soviet Union was on a 1972 Mideast resolution.

"We find that attempts aimed at using the Security Council to discuss issues outside its view are unacceptable," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said, noting that problems in Myanmar were being addressed by other U.N. bodies.

China's U.N. Ambassador Wang Guangya said he voted against the resolution for the same reason. The veto was only China's fourth, and Wang expressed regret, saying it was clear Myanmar was not moving quickly enough to promote stability.

He urged the military regime to move toward "inclusive democracy" and "speed up the process of dialogue and reform."

Though he abstained, Indonesia's ambassador, Rezlan Jenie, was highly critical of Myanmar, a fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN has tried to restore democracy in Myanmar, he said, but there has been no progress on the ground.

"Myanmar must respond to the imperative of restoring democracy and improving human rights," Jenie said. "We will do everything in our power ... to bring about positive change in Myanmar."

Wolff said the U.S. aim was to put the situation in Myanmar in the global spotlight and to support its people.

He accused Myanmar's military regime of carrying out arbitrary arrests, torture, rapes and executions, of waging war on minorities and building news cities while refugees flee the country, "narcotics and human trafficking grow, and communicable diseases remain untreated."

The United States views these actions as "contemporary threats that the council and the international community needs to address before they become imminent ... threats to international peace and security," he said.

Along with the U.S., Britain, France, Slovakia, Peru, Ghana, Belgium, Italy and Panama all supported the resolution.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, who co-sponsored the resolution, said his government wants to see a strengthened relationship between the United Nations and Myanmar to reduce poverty and promote development, and to establish democratic institutions, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

© 2007 The Associated Press