The UN envoy who met Myanmar's detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month said on Thursday that the nation's military rulers might be ready to re-open a dialogue with the world body.
Ibrahim Gambari, the under-secretary general for political affairs, wrote in the International Herald Tribune that diplomacy could still nudge the reclusive junta down the path to democratic reform.
"The UN received through diplomatic channels continued indications of the government's willingness to engage with the United Nations on the whole range of issues raised during my visit," Gambari said.
Among those issues are international demands for Aung San Suu Kyi's release and for a halt to a four-month military offensive against ethnic Karen rebels.
In a rare gesture of cooperation with the United Nations, the junta allowed Gambari to meet with the detained Nobel peace laureate on May 20, making him the first outsider to see her in more than two years.
The visit raised hopes among her supporters that she might be freed, but the junta extended her house arrest by another year just one week after the visit.
Gambari said the extension was disappointing, but noted that a lesser-known political prisoner was released on June 6.
And he said that during his visit, Aung San Suu Kyi told him that "the United Nations might now be able to play a useful role as an impartial third party in helping them find common ground with the government on what would no doubt be a difficult road to national reconciliation."
"Government officials expressed a similar desire," he said.
"Sustained engagement may be the only way to arrive at a fuller assessment of the prospects for democratization, development and reconciliation."
The United States is lobbying for an unprecedented UN Security Council resolution calling on Myanmar's military regime to change its repressive policies.
The council held its first-ever meeting on human rights abuses and other problems in Myanmar last December at Washington's urging.
A pro-democracy uprising in 1988 was brutally crushed by the military, which two years later rejected the results of elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition party National League for Democracy.
The 61-year-old pro-democracy leader has spent 10 of the past 17 years in detention at her lakeside home in Yangon.