Laura Bush hopes China will join Myanmar pressure By Tabassum Zakaria


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Wed Sep 5, 2007

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - First lady Laura Bush waded into international diplomacy on Wednesday by calling for the United Nations to step up pressure on Myanmar over human rights with a resolution, and said she hoped China would join in.

After taking the unusual step of personally telephoning U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week to express concerns about a crackdown on political dissidents, Bush said she wanted to bring more international attention to human rights abuses in Myanmar.

She told a small group of reporters in an interview at the White House that she hoped to raise the issue's profile at the U.N. General Assembly later this month.

"I would like a resolution, another chance for the (U.N.) Security Council to vote on a resolution on Burma and to give the countries who voted against it another opportunity to join us as we see a situation that we think is deteriorating," Bush said, using the former name of the Asian country.

China and Russia earlier this year rejected a Washington-backed draft resolution pressing Myanmar to stop persecuting minority and opposition groups.

The first lady said her husband, President George W. Bush planned to raise concerns about Myanmar with China's President Hu Jintao during the Asia-Pacfic summit in Australia this week.

She said that while China views Myanmar's political troubles as a domestic issue and does not want to be involved in international efforts to pressure the Asian country, it was in Beijing's interest to have a stable trading partner.

"I also have some, a small amount of optimism that China will work with us on this issue," she said. "They didn't want to work with us before, but I think they will."

Bush cited China's leading involvement in talks on North Korea's nuclear program and its arranging a meeting between the United States and Myanmar in China as signs that Beijing may be open to changing its stance on Myanmar.

She did not express the same hope about Russia, which along with China is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Long-standing U.S. sanctions against Myanmar are mainly "symbolic" because there is not a major economic relationship between the two countries, so it was important to get China, Russia and India involved in efforts to pressure Myanmar, Bush said.

"That is the question, what can we really get this regime to do?" she said. "As far as we can tell they thumb their nose at the rest of the world, but that doesn't mean the rest of the world shouldn't continue to speak out about the issue."

She said one reason she became involved in the plight of political dissidents in Myanmar was the detention of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, with whom she has not communicated.

The first lady said she was briefed several times by Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N. secretary-general's special adviser on Myanmar, most recently in June, and met members of the country's ethnic minority.

She did not see her increasingly public voice on Myanmar as a departure from her role as first lady, noting that she has traveled around the world without her husband including to the Middle East and Africa.

"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 Ban Ki-moon," she said.

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