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U.N. envoy to Myanmar urged to meet junta amid protests

  • Story Highlights
  • U.N. urges special envoy to Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari to meet with military junta
  • Protesting monks joined by thousands of supporters since Tuesday
  • British ambassador: Setback "not only in Burma ... but in the region as a whole"
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UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- United Nations diplomats called on the U.N. special envoy to Myanmar to meet with the country's military junta after Ibrahim Gambari briefed them Thursday on the political situation in the secretive Asian nation.

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Buddhist monks march down a street in Yangon, Myanmar, Thursday.

A small but persistent protest movement against the regime began in August after the government hiked fuel prices. Authorities have arrested several hundred protesters, but demonstrations led by Buddhist monks have gone largely unchallenged by the military. Marching in the streets of Yangon since Tuesday, the monks have been joined by thousands of supporters.

"We are concerned about the situation, particularly now, because we see a worsening of the political situation, and that is affecting the well-being of the people of Burma," said U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad, referring to Myanmar as its previous name before the military took power in 1962.

"We have urged Mr. Gambari, and he plans to visit Burma as soon as possible," Khalilzad said.

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Earlier this month, Gambari called the arrests of protesters a "setback for Myanmar." The junta typically keeps a tight lid on public dissent.

Opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her work in restoring democracy in Myanmar. Her politics have led to her being held in varying degrees of detention by the military from 1989 to 1995, 2000 to 2002, and May 2003 to the present.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won general elections in 1990, but the military refused to honor the results.

"The continued clampdown on any dissent in Burma, the continued human-rights abuses, have seriously set this back," said British ambassador John Sawers. "And it has set things back not only in Burma itself, but in the region as a whole." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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