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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 September 2007, 04:21 GMT 05:21 UK
China appeals for calm in Burma
Military vehicle in Rangoon, 28 Sept, 2007

Burma's closest ally, China, has made its most strident call yet for the military regime to end a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

After talks by telephone with his UK counterpart Gordon Brown, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said Beijing hoped peace would return to Burma quickly.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana urged China to lean harder on Burma.

The remarks came as UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari was in Burma hoping to hold talks with the military rulers.

In a statement, Mr Wen said China wanted a peaceful resolution to the situation in Burma.

"China hopes all parties concerned in [Burma] show restraint, resume stability through peaceful means as soon as possible, promote domestic reconciliation and achieve democracy and development."

'Act now'

But in an interview with the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, the EU foreign policy chief urged all countries with any influence on Burma to act immediately.

The cork has been put in the bottle, but the pressures are still there
Mark Canning
UK ambassador

"This is, of course, true for immediate neighbours such as China," Mr Solana was quoted as saying.

On Saturday several hundred people took to the streets of Rangoon, Burma's main city, despite three days of operations against protesters.

They chanted slogans before being baton-charged and dispersed by security forces.

There were also reports of at least three demonstrations elsewhere - in Mandalay, Sittwe and Pakokku.

The BBC's Chris Hogg, in neighbouring Thailand, says China - Burma's closest trading partner - is seen as having played a pivotal role in persuading Burma to grant the UN envoy a visa.

Burmese soldiers on the streets of Rangoon (28 September 2007)

Ibrahim Gambari is in the new Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, for key talks with the country's ruling generals.

However, it is not clear which members of the government Mr Gambari will be allowed to meet, although the White House has said he should be allowed to talk to anyone, including opposition figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi.

Burmese state TV announced on Saturday that "peace and stability" had returned to Burma and that a pro-government rally had been held in the northern state of Kachin.

Sustained unrest

Burma has now seen almost two weeks of sustained popular unrest.

But the number of protesters is now much smaller than at the height of the rallies as the military has heavily garrisoned Rangoon and Mandalay to deter dissent.

Religious sites sealed off by troops in Rangoon

Buddhist monks, who were initially at the vanguard of the protests, have been arrested or confined to their monasteries.

Internet links, which the government cut to stem the flow of information about the protests, are reported to be working intermittently again.

Burmese officials said on Thursday nine people had been killed but British PM Mr Brown said he believed the loss of life had been "far greater".

UK Ambassador Mark Canning told the BBC there were deep underlying political and economic reasons for the protests which would not go away easily.

He said: "The cork has been put in the bottle, but the pressures are still there."

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