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Kouchner: sanctions against Myanmar should be coupled with incentives

Sanctions against Myanmar ’s militia are not enough, France’s Foreign Minister said, adding that there must be incentives to encourage the regime to work for national reconciliation.

The European Union and the United States have pressed for expanded sanctions against Myanmar in recent weeks, after the junta arrested thousands of people following pro-democracy protests, shooting dead at least 10.

"Do we believe that (the sanctions) will be enough? No. Will it be useful? I hope so," French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said before meeting with Singaporean officials.

"But we also have to work on the political offer, and on incentives for the Burmese people to be part of." Myanmar is also known as Burma.

Kouchner noted that the European Union earlier this month agreed to expand sanctions against Myanmar, banning imports of timber, gemstones and precious metals in response to the junta's crackdown on pro-democracy groups. The EU is holding off applying them to give U.N. mediators more time to sway the military leaders to start talks with pro-democracy groups.

The French minister's Singapore visit coincides with one by the U.N.'s special envoy on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, at the end of his six-nation Asian tour to drum up international pressure on Myanmar to end its crackdown. Gambari met Singaporean Foreign Minister George Yeo and they had "a good exchange of views on the Myanmar situation," a Foreign Ministry statement said.

It was not immediately clear whether Gambari and Kouchner would meet.

As an incentive for the regime to work for national reconciliation in Myanmar, an international trust fund could be set up for development projects, Kouchner said.

"We have to offer them a perspective of development," Kouchner said during a lunch with the Foreign Correspondents Association in Singapore.

Kouchner said the fund, which he envisaged as being overseen by the World Bank and the U.N., would provide "micro-credit at the level of the state" to create opportunities for the development of Myanmar's trade and industry, among other projects.

Kouchner cited as an example the World Bank trust fund that was set up in 2000 for war-devastated Kosovo, where he worked as chief U.N. administrator to coordinate reconstruction and peace efforts.

He did not give a target sum for a Myanmar fund, but said British Foreign Minister David Miliband was also in favor of it and they would be seeking the support of the EU, the U.S., Japan, and Southeast Asian countries.

Kouchner is visiting the region to discuss Myanmar with some of its closest neighbors and trading partners. He will travel to Singapore, Thailand and China.

Kouchner said at the lunch that he would ask Singapore to consider imposing sanctions against the regime. Singaporean officials have previously rejected suggestions of sanctions, saying they believe further isolation would hamper Myanmar's reconciliation efforts.

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