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Scores of Burmese monks arrested in monastery raids

Security forces in Burma raided several Buddhist monasteries early Thursday, arresting scores of monks who have led growing protests against the ruling military junta, witnesses said.

Security forces in Burma raided several Buddhist monasteries earlyThursday, arresting scores of monks who have led growing protests against the ruling military junta, witnesses said.

At least 100 Buddhist monks in Burma, also known as Myanmar, were reportedly detained by troops in a pre-dawn raid on a monastery in Rangoon, witnesses told the BBC.

Reuters reported raids also took place at another monastery in Rangoon, as well as several monasteries inthe northeast part ofBurma, with a total of 850 monks arrested.

Security forces also prepared for another day of protests by erecting barbed-wire barricades around Shwedagon Pagod and Rangoon city hall, two of the focal points of protests.

The latest action comes a day after police used gunfire, tear gas and batons in a bid to break up demonstrations by thousands of monks and civilians.

Burmese authorities confirmed one death, but other reportssaidthedeathtoll ranged from three to eight.

State media referred to the protesters as "hot-blooded young monks" who are being manipulated by unnamed instigators, and said the government had to act to protect its citizens who felt threatened by the protests.

International pressure

Fears abound that the monk-led protests could result in massdeaths as in 1988 when more than 3,000 people were killed as the military moved to suppress pro-democracy street demonstration.

The protests began 11 days ago after the government doubled fuel prices in the poor southeast Asian country, and have grown over the days to become the country's largest protests in decades.

A number of countries have moved to increase international pressure on the junta, with a number of countries, including Canada, condemning the government's violent actions.

But as the UN Security Council met for an emergency discussion Wednesday, its members emerged divided on what action to take.

China and Russia called the protests an internal matter, whilethe U.S. and European Unionurged the council to impose sanctions.

In the end, the council issued a vague statement expressing concern about the violent response,but did not go as far as to condemn it or impose sanctions.

The council also agreed to send UN special envoy IbrahimGambarito the country, but as of Wednesday evening the Burmese government had still not agreed to admit him.

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