Saturday, October 20, 2007

US tightens screws on Burma's generals

Photo By Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP
PRESIDENT George Bush expanded US sanctions against Burma's rulers yesterday, accusing them of "vicious persecution" of democracy protesters and urging China and India to step up pressure on their neighbour.
Unveiling the second package of US measures in less than a month, Mr Bush said he was adding more of Burma's military leaders to a list already facing sanctions and had ordered a tightening of US export controls on the regime.
But in a tacit admission that US steps alone would not be enough, he urged China, India and other nations in the region to "review their own laws and policies" on Burma.
"Burma's rulers continue to defy the world's just demands to stop their vicious persecution," Mr Bush told reporters. "They continue to reject the clear will of the Burmese people to live in freedom under leaders of their own choosing."
The President's latest announcement followed weeks of mostly unsuccessful international efforts to get Burma's Government to ease repression of protesters and open a dialogue with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The junta has kept a tight lid on the country since crushing protests led by Buddhist monks that began in September and grew into the largest anti-government demonstrations in 20 years. Official media said 10 people died.
Mr Bush last month targeted 14 military leaders and toughened US measures that had been in place for years but had forced little change.
"In light of the ongoing atrocities by these men and their associates, the United States has today imposed additional sanctions," Mr Bush said yesterday.
He designated 11 more leaders under existing sanctions, including a freeze on US assets, and also named 12 new "individuals and entities" to be covered by US penalties.
The White House said the tightening of export controls would include a ban on the sale of high-performance computers to Burma.
Mr Bush demanded that the International Committee of the Red Cross be given access to political prisoners, that Ms Suu Kyi and other detained leaders be allowed to communicate with each other and that UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari be allowed back.
"And ultimately, reconciliation requires that Burmese authorities release all political prisoners and begin negotiations with the democratic opposition under the auspices of the United Nations," he said.
The US would "consider additional measures if Burma's leaders do not end the brutal repression".
Mindful of the limits of US influence with Burma, Mr Bush renewed his appeal for China and India to do more.
China, the closest the isolated junta has to an ally, has expressed concern about the crackdown. It helped facilitate Mr Gambari's visit earlier this month but has been reluctant to go further.


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