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UN Council Delays Statement On Suu Kyi Sentence

A TV video grab shows Aung San Suu Kyi at Insein Prison in Yangon on May 20.
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) -- Western nations pressed the UN Security Council to adopt a statement condemning a detention sentence passed on Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but other countries stalled for time.

A council meeting called by France to discuss the verdict ended without result and was adjourned until August 12, the president of the 15-nation body, British Ambassador John Sawers, said.

"There was considerable support for the principle of a statement, but a number of delegations wanted to refer it back to their capitals overnight for advice and instructions," Sawers told reporters.

Diplomats said the countries concerned were China, Vietnam, Russia, and Libya. China, which has a veto in the council, has consistently opposed tough action such as sanctions against its neighbor and trade partner Myanmar.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, was sentenced to 18 months of house detention for violating an internal security law after an uninvited American visited her house where she was already under detention.

The verdict will keep her off the political stage through elections the military government has set for next year.

The August 11 council meeting considered a U.S.-drafted statement that "condemns the conviction and sentencing of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and expresses grave concern about the political impact this action has on the situation in Myanmar."

The 16-line draft, seen by Reuters, called for the release of Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and demanded that the junta "establish the conditions and create an atmosphere conducive to an inclusive and credible political and electoral process with full participation of all political actors."

"We think there has to be a reaction by the Security Council," French envoy Jean-Pierre Lacroix told journalists. "The verdict is in clear violation and breach of the request made by the Security Council."

Earlier, a statement issued by the office of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is currently visiting his native South Korea, said he "strongly deplores" Suu Kyi's sentence and called for her release.

It said Ban, who visited Myanmar last month in a fruitless bid to win Suu Kyi's release, urged the junta to "engage with her without delay as an essential partner in the process of national dialogue and reconciliation."

Fourteen Nobel peace laureates sent an open letter to the council on August 11 urging it to set up a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity they said the junta had committed in Myanmar.