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China urges Myanmar to set date for U.N. envoy visit
BEIJING (Reuters) - China, one of the Myanmar's few friends, urged the ruling generals on Tuesday to allow U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari back soon to promote a genuine dialogue between the junta and opposition.
Gambari said last week the regime was trying to delay his third visit since a September crackdown on protests, which he hoped would be this month, until April.
"We support U.N. Special Envoy Gambari and his efforts," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference.
"We hope Mr Gambari and Myanmar can, through communications, set a timetable for Mr Gambari's visit to Myanmar."
The comments followed talks on Monday in Beijing between Chinese State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan and Myanmar Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint, who was sent as a special envoy of Prime Minister General Thein Sein.
The 15-member U.N. Security Council, including China, criticised Myanmar last week for dragging its feet on the release of political prisoners and substantive talks with the opposition.
But China, which has interests in the former Burma's natural gas and timber, repeated its position on Tuesday that it would not back sanctions as a means to force the generals into reform.
"The international community should give an objective view of the efforts made by the Myanmar government and give constructive help to Myanmar," Jiang said.
"I don't think sanctions and applying pressure are helpful to the resolution of the issues."
Gambari, who has said he wants to see concrete action from countries which have economic clout with Myanmar, is set to visit China and India this month.
Jiang also defended China's trade ties with Myanmar, whose leadership cracked down last September on pro-democracy protests that were spearheaded by Buddhist monks.
"Our cooperation is on the basis of equality and mutual benefit and is not related with the interests of any third party," she said.
Myanmar's official media have said nothing about Maung Myint's trip, but diplomats said they did not expect a great deal from it.
"You can't expect any country, including China, to play that big a role in this country," a Southeast Asian diplomat said. "Chinese influence on the regime is limited. All they can do is make suggestions and offer some help".
Myanmar's military rulers ignored an overwhelming election win by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize winner has spent most of her time in detention since then.
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