First Lady Focusing on Myanmar Violence

The Associated Press
Wednesday, September 5, 2007; 8:20 PM

WASHINGTON -- Laura Bush is seeking to dispel any notion that her interests as first lady are limited to reading, education and baking cookies.

She met with a small group of reporters in her White House office Wednesday to discuss her concern about the crackdown on pro-democracy activists in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar.

"I've been interested in political issues like this, policy issues around the world, for the whole time George has been president," she said.

She rejected the suggestion that her desire to speak out on Myanmar, which also is known as Burma, is a departure for her into heavier political or policy issues.

"I think this is sort of one of those myths _ that I was baking cookies and then they fell off the cookie sheet and I called (U.N. Secretary-General) Ban Ki-moon."

Last week, the first lady called Ban to urge him to condemn Myanmar's military government and its treatment of dissidents. The ruling junta has detained scores of activists and used gangs to snuff out protests that began Aug. 19 over higher fuel and consumer goods prices.

In the interview, she also raised the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose plight drew the first lady's interest in 2003 when a friend told her of Suu Kyi's house arrest. Suu Kyi has spent more than 11 of the past 18 years in detention.

"She represents to me, really, the hopes of everyone in Burma, of all the Burmese, who long for a day of democracy there, a day without an oppressive regime," Laura Bush said.

President Bush, in Australia for a summit of Pacific Rim leaders, said it is "inexcusable that we have this kind of tyrannical behavior in Asia." The president said he planned to discuss the issue with the 20 other summit leaders this weekend.

In her interview, Laura Bush said she hoped the U.N. Security Council would pass a resolution condemning Myanmar's ruling generals.

Richard Grenell, a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., said the council has agreed to discuss Myanmar this month. It is too early, he said, to say whether it will consider a resolution condemning the government.

China and Russia, both of which have veto power on the council, are the major barriers to a resolution on Myanmar. They say the council should deal with matters of international security, not the internal security of a country. The development comes ahead of an October trip to Myanmar by U.N. Under-Secretary-General Ibrahim Gambari.

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