A senior British minister has urged the Burmese regime to immediately start substantive political talks with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
By Larry Jagan
BBC Burma analyst
The appeal came in a statement issued by the Foreign Office minister, Mike O'Brien, a day after the European Union foreign ministers had agreed to increase EU sanctions against Rangoon because of the failure of the military government to demonstrate their commitment to the dialogue process in the past six months.
The EU, though, has told the generals that they are going to delay their implementation for six months to allow Rangoon time to take some significant steps towards national reconciliation.
Mr O'Brien has warned the Burmese regime that the EU continues to regard rapid political, economic and humanitarian change in the country as a high priority.
In his press statement issued on Tuesday, he stressed the EU's decision to strengthen sanctions against Rangoon reflects the European Community's concern to support the dialogue process.
General Than Shwe now has a clear choice: Either to be remembered for his role in ensuring Burma has a prosperous and peaceful future or collapse into ruin, he told the BBC.
The EU is now committed to automatically increasing economic sanctions against Rangoon if there is no substantial progress in the dialogue process within the next six months.
These would involve extending the visa ban against Burmese military officers and government ministers, and broadening the scope of those members of the regime whose assets could be frozen.
Privately, senior EU officials say this could include key members of the pro-government organisation the USDA (Union Solidarity Development Association), which has been in the forefront of the harassment campaigns against the opposition leader when she has travelled outside Rangoon.
The EU resolution also said it will favourably consider substantial increases in financial aid to Burma - multi-laterally and bilaterally - for key areas like Aids, health and education if there is political progress, though there is no mention of how much that might be.
The EU has decided to continue to use a forthcoming high-level visit to Rangoon as the means of assessing whether there has been any progress.
The EU's message to Burma is very clear: The community remains very concerned about developments in Burma, and it is now in the hands of the country's top generals if they want to avoid tougher sanctions being implemented within the next few months if the dialogue process remains stalled.