US engagement 'must be reciprocal'

Nov 5, 2009 (DVB), Burma's political impasse is best resolved through political means and dialogue which must be reciprocal, a senior US diplomat told Burma's main opposition party yesterday.

Kurt Campbell, who heads Washington's East Asia and Pacific Bureau, yesterday met with senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, following talks with detained NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Dialogue, a review of the 2008 constitution, unrestrictive political party registration act and electoral law, and recognition of 1990 election results were our focus of the meeting," NLD central executive committee member Win Tin said.

"We told the delegation that 2010 elections are not the answer for our country's political crisis and that without the review of the 2008 constitution it would be meaningless."

According to Win Tin, the US delegation had acknowledged that its attempts to pressure the Burmese junta to revise the 2008 constitution had, to date, been overshadowed by the push for dialogue between Washington and the military generals.

Campbell said in a statement yesterday that the trip was an "exploratory mission designed to explain to key stakeholders inside the country the results of the US policy review towards Burma and the strategic goals of our country that the review underscored".

Depurty assistant secretary Scot Marciel, who accompanied Campbell on the trip, told reporters that the US was ready to improve relations with the junta but only "if there is real progress" towards democracy in the country.

Past comments from Campbell that engagement with Burma would be a "slow and painful process" were echoed by Marciel yesterday. "This is early days, the first time we met most of these people. It’s going to take some time," he said.

Campbell said that he had urged the Burmese government to allow Aung San Suu Kyi, who recently marked her fourteenth year in detention, "more frequent interactions with stakeholders, especially the Central Executive Committee of her own party".

"We stated clearly that the United States is prepared to take steps to improve the relationship," Campbell said. "But that process must be based on reciprocal and concrete efforts by the Burmese government."

Reporting by Khin Hnin Htet and Joseph Allchin

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