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Karen Rebels Ask Burmese Military to Stop Offensive

Rebels from Burma's Karen ethnic minority have called on the country's military to stop an offensive that has forced thousands of people to flee villages in eastern Burma.

The Karen National Union released a statement today (Wednesday) asking the military to stop attacking Karen villages, withdraw troops from the area and resume peace talks.

A spokesman for the Karen National Union (Col. Ner Dah Mya) says the statement should be considered a warning.

The spokesman says an informal ceasefire agreement between the K.N.U. and the military is no longer working. The K.N.U. accuses the military of burning villages, torturing people and displacing many Karen people.

The government says the offensive is in response to the K.N.U.'s increased "disruptive acts," including bombings and planting mines on railway lines.

On Thursday, United Nations undersecretary general Ibrahim Gambari is to arrive in Rangoon to try to convince the government to hasten democratic reforms and national reconciliation.