YANGON, Myanmar – Myanmar's junta on Friday acknowledged that hundreds of Buddhist monks were detained during a crackdown on a recent pro-democracy uprising, but said most have been freed and only 109 remain in custody.
A government announcement on state-run television also said that security forces are searching for four monks "who are at large" after taking a "leading role in the protests."
The announcement came as the U.S. State department said a rare meeting in Myanmar between the country's deputy foreign minister and the acting U.S. ambassador there was not productive.
Acting Ambassador Shari Villarosa met with Deputy Foreign Minister Maung Myint in the remote jungle capital of Naypitaw, according to a senior embassy official.
"It was not a terribly edifying meeting," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack. "What she heard in private was not very different than what we hear from the government in public."
Villarosa has been a vocal critic of the junta's brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters last week.
At the United Nations Friday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the use of force against peaceful demonstrators in Myanmar as "abhorrent and unacceptable" and his chief envoy to the Southeast Asian nation called for the release of all political prisoners.
Speaking to the U.N. Security Council, Ban urged Myanmar's military rulers to "take bold actions towards democratization and respect for human rights."
Ban spoke to the council just before his special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, addressed members and spectators, including a dozen red-robed monks in the front row of the visitors gallery.
"The national reconciliation process must be accelerated and be made as broad-based, inclusive and transparent as possible," Ban said.
Many governments have urged stern U.N. Security Council action against Myanmar, but members China and Russia have ruled out any council action, saying the crisis does not threaten international peace and security.
On Thursday Myanmar's junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe announced that he was willing to talk with Suu Kyi, the democratic opposition leader — but only if she stops calling for international sanctions.
Than Shwe also insisted that Suu Kyi stop urging her countrymen to confront the military regime, state television and radio said in reporting on the conditions set by the junta leader during a meeting this week with a special U.N. envoy.
The surprise move appeared aimed at staving off economic sanctions, thereby keeping Myanmar's bountiful natural resources on world markets, while also pleasing giant neighbor China, which worries the unrest could cause problems for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Diplomats and opposition figures were skeptical that the offer was genuine but, nonetheless, expressed hope that the meeting with Suu Kyi — something she has requested for years — would materialize.
Suu Kyi, who has spent nearly 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest, was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her democracy campaign. Her party won elections in 1990 but the junta refused to accept the results.
Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. The current junta came to power after routing a 1988 pro-democracy uprising in bloodshed that killed at least 3,000 people.