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UN chief may delay visit to Burma

Oct 10, 2008 (DVB), United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has said he will cancel his proposed trip to Burma in December unless it is likely to bring tangible progress towards democratisation.

The UN chief visited Burma in May after Cyclone Nargis to discuss humanitarian issues and try to secure access for international relief workers to the cyclone victims, but did not focus on political matters.

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari also went to the country in August for his fourth visit since the regime's crackdown on demonstrations in September last year.

But Gambari's visit did not bring any tangible developments, and his failure to meet either detained National League for Democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or junta leader senior general Than Shwe lowered expectations still further.

During his visit, the special envoy announced that Ban planned to come to Burma in December for discussions with regime leaders.

But the secretary-general has now said he will delay his visit until there are clear objectives to be met.

"I would be willing to make a return visit to Myanmar at an appropriate time, but you should also know that without any tangible or very favourable result to be achieved, then I may not be in a position to visit Myanmar," he told reporters.

"I’m now in the process of making some groundwork which may allow me to consider my own visit, but I need some more time," he said.

Diplomats said Ban's statement was intended to highlight to the regime leaders that changes need to be made.

Dr Thaung Tun, UN representative for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, agreed that the secretary-general wanted to send a clear message to the junta.

"This statement is a way of officially notifying the military government," he said.

"There need to be political and economic changes in Burma and cooperation with the international community."

NLD spokesperson Nyan Win said the party supported the secretary-general's stance.

"We welcome his decision to come only when there are tangible and visible developments," he said.

"Looking at the real situation in Burma, no positive signs have been seen."

Reporting by Htet Aung Kyaw


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