EU envoy calls for release of Daw Suu

Jan 30, 2008 (AFP), The EU’s special envoy for Burma on Tuesday urged the country’s military regime to free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi as he kicked off an Asian tour aimed at pressuring the junta for reform.

"I hope the lady Aung San Suu Kyi can be free as soon as possible," Piero Fassino told reporters after a meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Nitya Pibulsonggram.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a 62-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest in Rangoon.

The ruling junta, in an apparent bid to defuse global pressure after its bloody crackdown on protests last September, appointed Labour Minister Aung Kyi in October to handle contacts with the detained opposition leader.

Since then, Aung San Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi met four times, including their last meeting on 11 January, but the military government has given no details of their talks.

Fassino, a former Italian justice minister, said he supported the junta’s dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi but urged the regime to make concrete progress.

"Now it’s necessary to open new phases. I think it’s necessary to open real dialogue between the junta and the opposition and all different sectors of Myanmar society," he said.

Fassino was appointed the EU special envoy on Burma last November and said he would travel to Indonesia, India, Vietnam, Laos and Japan over the next two months in a bid to garner Asian support to press Burma for reform.

The Italian diplomat also called on the regime to allow the United Nations special envoy to Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, to return to the Southeast Asian country "as soon as possible."

Gambari has visited Burma twice since the bloody military crackdown in September on peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks, who spearheaded the biggest pro-democracy uprising in nearly 20 years.

The United Nations says at least 31 people were killed during the suppression, and 74 remain missing.

Gambari has asked to return to Burma this month but was told by authorities there that they would consider an April visit.

Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962.

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