Gambari plans return visit to Burma in March

Feb 22, 2008 (DVB), United Nations special envoy Ibrahim Gambari has said he hopes to visit Burma in March, and will discuss the possible exclusion of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from planned elections with junta leaders.

Gambari was speaking from Indonesia yesterday after a meeting with foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda to discuss democratisation and national reconciliation in Burma as part of a regional tour.

The special envoy said on Tuesday that negotiations over the timing for his next visit were still ongoing, but he was optimistic that his trip would be brought forward from the mid-April date originally suggested by the junta.

He now hopes to return to the country in the first week of March.

Gambari was positive about the government's pledge to hold a constitutional referendum in May followed by a general election in 2010, but called for a more inclusive national reconciliation process.

"The authorities in Myanmar made some announcements that are significant in terms of timelines for the road map but what is important for us is to work together with them, with the neighbouring countries, with ASEAN and the international community to enhance the credibility of this constitutional process, to make national reconciliation more inclusive," he said.

When asked about reports that the detained democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi would be prevented from running for office on account of her marriage to a foreigner, Gambari said he would raise the topic with regime leaders.

The government announced plans for a May constitutional referendum and 2010 general election on 9 February, and approved the draft constitution on 19 February, but this has not yet been made public.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon called for an "inclusive, participatory and transparent" constitutional process in a statement issued on 11 February in response to the junta's referendum announcement.

Ban Ki-moon also urged the Burmese government to allow Gambari to return to the country as soon as possible.

Gambari arrived in Indonesia after a visit to China, and he will continue his regional consultation mission in Singapore and Japan.

Reporting by Si√¢n Thomas

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