African Press International (API)

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Foreign Ministry meets groups active in Burma

Posted by African Press International on September 30, 2007

Top Norwegian officials in the foreign ministry called in representatives from aid organizations and the Norwegian Burma Committee on Friday, as a violent military crackdown on peaceful demonstrations continued.

The death toll in Burma is feared to be much higher than what the junta is reporting.

PHOTO: AP PHOTO/DEMOCRATIC VOICE OF BURMA

State Secretary Raymond Johansen said Norway is “doing all it can” to get the generals in Burma to halt the violence.

PHOTO: ERLEND AAS/SCANPIX

“It’s an extremely serious situation in Burma now,” said state secretary Raymond Johansen after a meeting in Oslo with the volunteer organizations working in Burma.

Johansen met with officials from organizations including Doctors Without Borders, Norwegian Church Aid, the Norwegian Refugee Council, the Strmme Foundation and the Norwegian Burma Committee. The aim was to share information about the dramatic events unfolding in Burma.

“We have been in contact with people in Rangoon and received information that there were fewer demonstrators in the streets and that monks are no longer among them,” Johansen told news bureau NTB.

He worried that meant the military junta’s strategy about shutting the monasteries was succeeding, and that the other demonstrators no longer had the protection the monks could give them.

Johansen said Norwegian officials were doing all they could, along with the international community, to enter into a dialogue with the military junta. There also were calls for Norway to sell off investments in any companies dealing with Burma.

“The junta must first stop their violent acts, which have increased,” Johansen said. “Then they must enter into a dialogue with the legal opposition (which won democratic elections in 1990, only to see the results annulled by the generals) and with leaders of the various ethnic groups in Burma.”

Norway long has had a special interest in Burma, which climaxed with the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991.

There were conflicting reports on Friday as to the whereabouts and safety of Aung San Suu Kyi. Some believe she’s been taken to a military prison, while others reported that the general who’s second-in-command in Burma disagreed with the violent military response to the demonstrations and was planning to meet with her.

By Nina Berglund

Lifted and published by Korir, API*APN source.aftenposteneng

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