"I call on all members of the international community to condemn the atrocities detailed in Mr Pinheiro's report in the strongest possible terms," Bush said on Tuesday, calling for the release of all political detainees, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.


"Today's legislation hits these military dictators where it hurts, in the pocketbook"

Tom Lantos,
US Representative

"Should the regime continue to ignore calls for a true democratic transition and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, the United States is prepared to lead international efforts to place more sanctions on the regime," Bush said.


The US president's comments came as members of congress sought to block Myanmar's multi-million-dollar gemstone exports and remove tax breaks enjoyed by US firms in the country.


A unanimous vote in the House of Representatives approved sanctions to stop the export of Myanmar gems sold through third countries such as China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, to evade US restrictions.


Tom Lantos, the Democratic head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and author of the bill, said the move would target top general's in the government of Myanmar, also known as Burma.


A UN report says 31 people died, possibly
many more, in the crackdown [AP]
"Burma's generals fund this repression of their own people by selling off the country's natural resources, especially oil and gems, leaving the Burmese people in poverty," he said.


"Today's legislation hits these military dictators where it hurts, in the pocketbook."


Meanwhile Pinheiro, the UN rights envoy, has said he plans to return to Myanmar to learn more about the military crackdown on protesters because he believed the toll could be much higher.


He said the government has not taken serious steps to respect human rights despite the international outcry sparked by the crackdown, adding that he regretted being unable to meet the country's democracy icon, Aung San Suu Kyi, during his visit last month.


Myanmar's government has said further UN investigation of the protests is unnecessary.