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China Firm Against Myanmar Sanctions

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a man passes by a row of military vehicles in Yangon, Myanmar Thursday, Oct. 4, 2007.
AP Photo/Xinhua
China stood firm Tuesday in opposing the use of sanctions or pressure to resolve the crisis in Myanmar - a stance that effectively blocks the U.N. Security Council from taking tough action against the country's military government.

The United States has warned that it would push for U.N. sanctions against Myanmar if it fails to move toward democracy after recent widespread public protests there. But China, a veto-wielding member of the Security Council and Myanmar's biggest trading partner, signaled its continued opposition to such action.

"Sanctions or pressure will not help to solve the issue in Myanmar," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.

Though he did not say if Beijing would use its veto, Liu said the Security Council should seek to bolster what he said was the calmer atmosphere in Myanmar in recent days.

"We hope this momentum can be maintained. Any move by the Security Council should be prudent and responsible and be conducive to the ... efforts of the U.N. secretary-general, and conducive to achieving stability, reconciliation, democracy and the development of Myanmar," Liu said.

Myanmar's ruling junta said Tuesday it hoped to achieve "smooth relations" with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a day after suggesting her release from house arrest was unlikely to happen soon.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece of the junta, printed a brief official announcement on its front page saying Deputy Labor Minister Aung Kyi had been appointed "minister for relations" to coordinate contacts with Suu Kyi, the country's democracy icon.

However, Suu Kyi's party issued a statement Tuesday calling for no preconditions for dialogue with the military junta.

The junta's leaders have offered to meet with Suu Kyi, but only on condition she renounce calls for international sanctions against the military regime.

"The success of a dialogue is based on sincerity and the spirit of give and take," said the statement by the National League for Democracy. "The will for achieving success is also crucial and there should not be any preconditions."

Liu also dismissed comments by some activists who want to link China's action on pressuring the government in Myanmar with the Summer Olympics to be held in Beijing next year.

"As everyone knows China has adopted a responsible attitude in addressing the Myanmar issue, and China has played a constructive role in the process," he said.

"Attempts to use this issue for ulterior motives cannot gain popular support."

The violence peaked late last month in Myanmar when government troops crushed pro-democracy demonstrations in Myanmar with gunfire on Sept. 26 and 27.

The regime said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the toll at up to 200 and say 6,000 people were detained, including thousands of monks who led the rallies.

Protests erupted Aug. 19 after the government raised fuel prices, but anger mushroomed into broad-based marches by tens of thousands demanding democratic reforms.

The government has continued to round up suspected activists, although some people have been released and security in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, has gradually eased.

China has developed close diplomatic ties with junta leaders and is hungry for the country's bountiful oil and gas resources.