France fails to get UN briefing on Myanmar cyclone

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United Nation’s envoy attributes the failure to secure a briefing to opposition of some delegations.

8 May 2008

UNITED NATIONS - France's UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert on Wednesday said he tried to secure a Security Council briefing on the cyclone disaster in Myanmar but failed because of the opposition of some delegations.

"I asked the council to hear a briefing by (UN humanitarian chief) John Holmes" on the disaster, which has left more than 22,000 people dead, Ripert told reporters.

"It was not possible because of the opposition of some delegations" on procedural grounds, he added. "We are very disappointed."

He did not name the delegations involved but a Western diplomat said they were those of China, South Africa, Vietnam, Libya and Russia.

China, a veto-wielding council member and Myanmar's main military and commercial partner, routinely opposes any Security Council involvement in the internal affairs of UN member states.

Ripert said the 15-member council held extensive discussions on Myanmar's humanitarian crisis Wednesday in which he pointed out that, as French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner indicated, "it is time for the UN to intervene."

He said the council needed to "express its concern and to call on the government of Myanmar to open its doors" to international relief aid.

Earlier Wednesday, Kouchner also said the Security Council should force Myanmar's military junta to allow aid supplies into the cyclone-hit country.

He noted that the UN concept of a "responsibility to protect," in cases where a state fails in its duties towards its population, could form the basis of a Security Council resolution.

A vast swathe of Myanmar's low-lying delta region was inundated by Cyclone Nargis which hit Saturday, sweeping away entire towns, and triggering fears that disease could push the death toll still higher.

But frustrated aid agencies said Wednesday they were still being denied permission to enter Myanmar and help desperate survivors of the cyclone, which has left millions homeless and without food and water.

[AFP / Expatica]

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