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EU to stiffen sanctions against Myanmar

Luxembourg, June 16 (Reuters): The European Union today decided to stiffen sanctions against Myanmar following the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The bloc’s sanctions against the country include an arms embargo and visa bans and asset freezes on more than 150 officials in the military-ruled government.

It has also suspended trade privileges because of its alleged use of forced labour.

Officials said foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg had decided to lengthen the list of targeted individuals immediately instead of waiting until October as originally planned.

“In light of the serious deterioration of the situation in the country, especially over the last weeks, the council (of ministers) decided to implement without delay the strengthened sanctions,” the ministers said in a statement.

Suu Kyi has been detained at undisclosed locations for more than two weeks, despite mounting calls from the international community for her release.

Myanmar foreign minister Win Aung, in Cambodia for a regional security meeting, said yesterday that Suu Kyi would be released as soon as the situation in the country returned to normal, but gave no time limit.

US secretary of state Colin Powell last week called for the sanctions which Washington has imposed on the junta to be stiffened, and a group of US lawmakers is turning up the heat by pushing for a ban on imports from Myanmar.

The 15-nation bloc’s foreign ministers called for the immediate release of Suu Kyi and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD).

The EU also urged Yangon to start “substantial and meaningful” dialogue with the NLD, reiterated a call for the release of political prisoners and expressed “deep concern over the noted increase of politically motivated arrests”.

It also said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and their key partners, China, India and Japan, should use their influence to promote political change in Myanmar.

Myanmar, which has been under military rule since 1962, joined Asean in 1997.

Universities reopen

Myanmar students flocked back to universities today after the ruling military allowed classes to restart, ending a two-week suspension amid fears of unrest following the detention of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The universities closed as part of a broad crackdown on dissent after May 30 clashes between pro-government groups and Suu Kyi’s supporters.

Universities have traditionally been centres of support for the pro-democracy movement and regarded with suspicion by authorities since a 1988 student-led uprising which was brutally crushed by the military.

Suu Kyi has been detained at undisclosed locations for more than two weeks, despite mounting calls from the international community for her release.

Dozens of exiled Myanmar dissidents demonstrated outside the Myanmar embassy in neighbouring Thailand on Monday, urging the international community to pressure the junta to release her.

Around 100 people stamped on signs bearing the names of the regime's leaders and carried placards with anti-junta slogans.

Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung, in Cambodia for a regional security meeting, said on Sunday that Suu Kyi would be released as soon as the situation in the country returned to normal, but gave no time limit.

A U.. envoy allowed to visit her last week said the Nobel peace laureate -- whose National League for Democracy party won 1990 elections but was denied power -- had not been harmed in the May 30 clash north of the capital near Mandalay.

The junta says four people were killed in the violence and some 50 injured. Exiled dissidents say they believe dozens of Suu Kyi's followers were killed by club-wielding pro-government thugs and hundreds injured.

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