White House Urges Meeting Between Burmese Junta Leader, UN Envoy

The Bush administration says it hopes a United Nations envoy to Burma can continue his work to end a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators by the country's military junta. From the White House, VOA's Michael Bowman reports.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino says the United States remains concerned about reports of violence and intimidation against civilian protesters by Burma's military. At the same time, she noted some positive developments -- specifically a meeting between a U.N. representative and the country's best-known dissident.

"The United States is pleased that U.N. Special Envoy [Ibrahim] Gambari was able to see Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Gambari remains in Burma in order to see the top junta leader, Than Shwe. We think it is important that they meet, and that a process of national reconciliation can begin."

Perino says the United States is committed to working with the international community to move Burma on a peaceful path to democracy. To that end, she noted the important roles played by some of Burma's neighbors, especially China, in working to defuse the current crisis and find a long-term solution.

So far, Burma's military leaders have signaled no appetite to allow peaceful protest, much less embrace democratic reform. Last week, troops opened fire on thousands of Buddhist monks and other demonstrators in Rangoon. The government says 10 people died, but some independent observers and diplomats say the death toll from the incident is likely far higher.