Albright Seeks Myanmar Intervention

Secretary of State Madeline Albright and her Australian counterpart Friday asked U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan to become involved in escalating tensions in Myanmar. "He said he was going to take a very careful look," Albright said.

Albright and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer spoke after meeting on a range of U.S.-Australian issues. Also participating were U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Australian Defense Minister Ian McLachlan.

"Burma has moved further away from reconciliation and has increased its isolation," Albright said, citing the standoff between the military regime and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Albright and Downer both said conditions in Myanmar, also known as Burma, are worsening and that the crisis extends beyond human rights issues.

Downer raised the possibility that refugees from Myanmar soon may flock to Thailand.

"I know already that this is a concern of the Thai government. And there is widespread concern in Asia. That was partly the argument that we made to the secretary general," he said.

Albright has sought to rally world opinion against the military regime and its treatment of Suu Kyi, an opposition party leader and Nobel laureate.

Government police on Wednesday forcibly returned Suu Kyi to her home in the capital of Yangon, ending a six-day highway standoff.

Albright on Thursday called the government's actions "an unacceptable violation of human rights." Friday, she upped the ante further by trying to get the United Nations involved.

"We had a discussion with the secretary general telling him that we were very concerned about the fact that it is difficult for diplomats on the ground to be involved in some of he negotiating processes," Albright told a news conference.

Annan was urged "to become personally involved in it. And he was very interested in what we were telling him," Albright said. She said she and Annan would talk more about the situation over the next few days, when they both are back in the United States.

"I think he joined our concern about the fact that the handling of her was so inappropriate in terms of the way that one handles any citizen of a country, much less the leader of an opposition (party). And he wanted to hear more from us about what we knew."

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won parliamentary elections in 1990 but never was allowed to take office because the government annulled the vote.

Albright declined to criticize the tactics of Suu Kyi, who has said she will try again to leave the capital. Albright called her "one of the most hardworking and bravest people I have met in my public life" who has turned to such tactics because "she has not found any satisfaction."

The government has blocked her three times this month from leaving the capital, saying she was trying to foment unrest.

Written by Tom Raum