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UN envoy meets opposition leader

Feb 2, 2009 (AP)‚ The United Nations’ special envoy to Burma met with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday in an effort to promote political reform in the military-ruled country, government officials said.

The meeting between UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari and Aung San Suu Kyi took place at the state guest house to which the Nobel Peace prize laureate was driven from her house arrest in a Rangoon villa, said the officials who declined to give their names because they were not authorised to speak to the press.

Gambari arrived on Saturday for a four-day visit, the seventh of his trips to Burma, which have failed to produced significant results.

Gambari told diplomats earlier that his objectives are to urge the release of political prisoners, discuss the country’s ailing economy and revive a dialogue between Aung San Suu Kyi and the junta.

It was unclear whether Gambari would see junta leader senior general Than Shwe, who has shunned the envoy during his last three visits.

The country’s pro-democracy movement has been disappointed by Gambari’s previous visits, which have failed to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 63, who has spent more than 13 of the past 19 years under house arrest, refused to see Gambari during his last visit in August.

The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon expressed frustration after Gambari’s August visit when the junta ignored requests that it release political prisoners and resume dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ban himself visited Burma last May after Cyclone Nargis devastated coastal areas and persuaded Than Shwe to ease access for foreign aid workers and relief supplies. Gambari’s current visit is also believed aimed at preparing for another possible visit by Ban.

Burma’s military, which has ruled the country since 1962, tolerates no dissent and crushed pro-democracy protests led by Buddhist monks in September 2007. Human rights groups say it holds more than 2100 political prisoners, up sharply from nearly 1200 before the demonstrations.

The current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a nationwide pro-democracy movement. It held elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results after Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide victory.


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