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Report: U.S. to Support Burma War Crimes Inquiry

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration has decided to support creation of a United Nations commission to look into alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Burma, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

An article on the newspaper's website quoted unidentified U.S. officials as saying the administration also is considering tightening financial sanctions against the Burma regime to perhaps force it to open its political system and free thousands of political prisoners.

The newspaper said that by supporting the U.N. inquiry, the Obama administration is committing itself to backing an investigation of the military junta led since 1992 by Senior Gen. Than Shwe.

Than Shwe's loyalists overturned election results in 1990 that favored the political party of Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi, who was named a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, remains under house arrest.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, is holding elections Nov. 7 -- the first in two decades -- but critics say they are a sham designed to perpetuate the military's commanding role in politics.

Aung Din, executive director of the Washington-based U.S. Campaign for Burma, called the Obama administration's move "the right and timely action."

In a statement issued Wednesday, Din said members of the junta "are expecting to delete their dirty crimes by putting a sham constitution into effect through a sham election. This is a clear message that the United States will not recognize their showcase election and will take them accountable for their horrible abuses against their own citizens."

The Obama administration entered office with a desire to shift course on Burma.

Pro-democracy and human rights groups have urged the U.N. Security Council to impose an arms embargo on Burma's military regime and establish a commission of inquiry into crimes against humanity.

They fear a humanitarian crisis may develop along the border with Thailand, where the Burma military has been fighting ethnic Karens, pushing thousands of refugees across the border. Karen National Union fighters have been battling for half a century for greater autonomy from Burma's central government.