UN condemns Burma's human rights and 'unfair' elections

Image caption, Aung San Suu Kyi has said she is prepared to work with the generals to move the country forward

A UN human rights committee has condemned Burma's recent elections, saying they were neither free nor fair.

The committee said it "deeply regretted" that the ruling junta had not taken steps to ensure the process was "transparent and inclusive".

But China defended Burma, saying "finger pointing" would not advance human rights in the country.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was not released from house arrest until after the election.

She had urged her supporters to boycott the polls but has since said she is willing to meet the country's leader, Senior General Than Shwe, to work towards national reconciliation.

The UN committee welcomed her release and called on the junta to take up her offer of talks on moving towards democracy.

The resolution - sponsored by the EU, US and other Western nations - also strongly condemned the "ongoing systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms" in Burma.

It expressed "grave concern at the continuing practice of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

'No moral authority'

The resolution was backed by 96 nations but 28, including China and Russia, voted against it.

China's representative said the motion failed to reflect advances made in Burma and that "finger pointing does not protect human rights," the AFP news agency reports.

Burma's ambassador to the UN, Than Shwe, rejected the criticism and said the resolution had "no moral authority", the Associated Press reports.

The elections on 7 November - the first to be held in Burma in 20 years - were won by the biggest military-backed party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

Six days later, Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest. Her now-disbanded National League for Democracy (NLD) won the last election in 1990, but was never allowed to take power.

She has urged her followers not to give up hoping for change and has also said she is willing to talk to Western nations about lifting sanctions on Burma, which she previously supported.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke to Aung San Suu Kyi earlier on Thursday, telling her she was "a source of inspiration for millions of people around the world".

In a statement, Mr Ban's office said he had reiterated the UN's commitment to "uphold the cause of human rights and support all efforts by the government, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other stakeholders to build a united, peaceful, democratic and modern future for their country".

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