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US, UN Chief Warn Against Air Strikes In Myanmar's Kachin State

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. government have expressed serious concern over Myanmar military air attacks against rebel fighters in the northern state of Kachin.

Myanmar government on Wednesday acknowledged reports of military helicopter gunships firing on the ground and fighter jet planes flying close to the trenches of the ethnic rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA) for the past five days.

The government, which until Wednesday denied attacking rebel bases near the border with China, admitted that the attacks were aimed at rebels who tried to block military supply routes to Kachin state, where tens of thousands of civilians were forced from their homes last year due to fighting between the government and rebels.

The state-run Myanmar News Agency reported that the military used aircraft to clear rebels from a hilltop not far from the Chinese border.

"While details of these reports are still emerging and being closely followed, the Secretary-General calls upon the Myanmar authorities to desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians living in the area or further intensify the conflict in the region," said a statement issued by Ban's spokesperson.

"The ongoing hostilities have already caused large-scale displacement of civilians who continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance," the statement added. The U.N. chief called for providing timely access for the delivery of aid to vulnerable communities.

Ban also urged all concerned parties to work toward political reconciliation in order to build the basis for "a fair and durable outcome for all."

Some 75,000 people were displaced in the northern states of Kachin and Shan since fighting began in June 2011 between Government troops and rebels.

During her visit to Myanmar last month, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, discussed with President Thein Sein her concern about the lack of humanitarian access in parts of Kachin, particularly with the onset of winter.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a news conference that the U.S. Government was "deeply troubled by the increased violence. We are continuing to urge the government of Burma and the Kachin Independence Organization (the political wing of the KIA) to cease this conflict, to get to a real dialogue to address grievances as the government of Burma has been able to do in virtually all of the other conflict areas," she told reporters.

by RTT Staff Writer

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