The U.N. Security Council urged Myanmar's military government on Wednesday to exercise restraint towards peaceful protesters and expressed concern at its violent response to demonstrations in the reclusive Asian nation.

The council gave its strong backing to the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, who briefed the emergency meeting on the latest developements and was then leaving for the region. It urged Myanmar authorities to give him a visa so he could enter the country.

Earlier, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Myanmar's government to exercise "utmost restraint" and announced that Gambari was heading to the region immediately to press the U.N.'s offer to help promote national reconciliation through dialogue.

Council diplomats said China, which has close economic ties to Myanmar, did not want any statement issued after the closed-door session, but relented and agreed to a brief press statement which was read to reporters by France's U.N. Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert.

"Members of the council have expressed their concern vis a vis the situation, and have urged restraint, especially from the government of Myanmar," the statement said.

The council expressed its "strong support" for Ban's "good offices" mission.

"They welcomed the decision by the secretary-general to urgently dispatch his special envoy to the region and underline the importance that Mr. Gambari be received by the authorities of Myanmar as soon as possible," the statement said.