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U.S. Learns toward Sanction on Burm

Subject: U.S. Learns toward Sanction on Burma

                              Agence France Presse

                            April  18, 1997 18:00 GMT

HEADLINE: US leans toward sanctions on  Burma 

BYLINE: Sarah Jackson-Han


   The United States sent a strong signal this week it may soon impose
investment sanctions on  Burma,  as an influential senator pressed for action
aimed at penalizing human rights abuses there.

   In the first such warning by a top US official, Secretary of State Madeleine 
Albright cautioned  Burma's  ruling junta Tuesday they were "on notice that, 
unless the clouds of repression are lifted, they will face investment sanctions 
under US law."

   Intensive high-level deliberations are ongoing about invoking a 1996 law
permitting a ban on new US investment in  Burma  in the event of a worsening
crackdown on dissent, according to another senior official.

   "Our policy with  Burma  has not been one of tolerance," Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for Jeffrey Bader told a Senate panel on Thursday, conceding 
nonetheless that pressure on Burmese dissidents was escalating.

   The law, signed by President Bill Clinton last September, authorizes him to
outlaw new US investment in the Southeast Asian country if its nine-year-old
junta arrests, harms, or exiles opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi or suppresses
her followers on a large scale.

   "Obviously I think those conditions have been met," Republican Senator Mitch 
McConnell, chairman of a key foreign funding committee and a sponsor of a much
tougher  Burma  sanctions bill last year, told AFP on Thursday.

   McConnell's sanctions bill, vigorously opposed by US oil companies operating 
in  Burma,  suffered a narrow defeat in the Senate last July. 
   McConnell said he planned to pursue "strong congressional action" against
 Burma's  ruling State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) again, but
added: "We don't know where the votes will be."

   He declined to elaborate, but sources following the issue say the
administration fears a tougher sanctions bill might garner substantially more
support this year and wants to act quickly to head off such an effort.

   All but a few cabinet officials reportedly support invoking the discretionary
ban on new investment contained in current law rather than risking the
possibility that Congress might pass a broader, binding provision.

   Popular support for a tougher US line against  Burma  has meanwhile
increased. A half-dozen cities and one state, Massachusetts, have passed laws
banning municipal contracts with firms that do business in  Burma,  and several 
others may follow suit.

   In its annual human rights report issued January 30, the State Department
said  Burma's  military dictatorship had stepped up its "severe repression" of
human rights in 1996. 
   And earlier this week in Geneva, the UN Commission on Human Rights voiced
deep concern at SLORC abuses including torture, secret trials, forced labor, and
oppression of religious and ethnic minorities.

   US officials also say the SLORC is doing little to combat the international
drugs trade, with 60 percent of heroin in the United States believed the
originate in  Burma. 

   The threat of a US investment ban hasn't gone unnoticed in  Burma.  In
Bangkok, a SLORC official attacked the proposed sanction as "a weapon of

   Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize-winner who spent six years under house 
arrest, has called repeatedly for international economic sanctions against the