EU envoy sees progress in Burma

Nov 30, 2009 (AFP)-Opportunities are emerging for a breakthrough in the political stalemate in military-ruled Burma, including the possibility of talks with the junta, and they must not be missed, an EU envoy said Friday.

Italian politician Piero Fassino, the European Union special envoy on Burma, discussed efforts to push democracy in the state with Asian leaders during a just-ended tour of Southeast Asia.

"A window of opportunity with regards to the Myanmar [Burma] dossier seems to be opening up as a result of the recent encouraging events," Fassino said in a statement.

These included a "new, inclusive approach" from US president Barack Obama and subsequent indications from the military rulers that they were available for talks, he said.

Fassino also cited a November letter from detained Burma opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi to the chief of the junta, Senior General Than Shwe, asking for a meeting, and the efforts of Asian nations.

"All these events represent opportunities not to be missed," Fassino said.

Ahead of 2010 elections, "every step towards a free, transparent and credible electoral process needs to be encouraged," he said.

Suu Kyi, who is barred from contesting next year’s elections, and Than Shwe have not met since 2002.

The democracy icon has been in detention for 14 of the past 20 years and had her house arrest extended by a further 18 months in August after being convicted over a bizarre incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside house.

Burma has been ruled by the military since 1962, when the country was known as Burma.

A UN commission issued a resolution this month expressing "grave concern" over widespread rights abuses in Burma and detention of political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.

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