US senator set for historic Myanmar meeting

  • AFP, Yangon
  • |
  • Updated: Aug 15, 2009 13:33 IST

US Senator Jim Webb is set to become the first senior American official to meet Myanmar's junta chief on Saturday, in landmark talks expected to focus on a US man convicted alongside Aung San Suu Kyi.

The meeting with military supremo Than Shwe, scheduled for around 1000 (IST) in the capital Naypyidaw, comes days after the regime sparked global anger by extending democracy leader Suu Kyi's house arrest by 18 months.

Eccentric US citizen John Yettaw, who sparked the trial of the Nobel Peace laureate by swimming to her lakeside mansion in May, was sentenced to seven years of hard labour and imprisonment by the ruling generals.

Webb, a Democrat who is close to US President Barack Obama, arrived in Naypyidaw on Friday and was greeted by Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win, state media reported.

He met members of the constitutional drafting committee and of non-governmental organisations, state television said.
The junta forced through a new constitution in 2008 just days after a devastating Cyclone Nargis hit the country, killing around 138,000 people.

The constitution also provided for elections in 2010 but Suu Kyi's house arrest means that she will be locked up during the vote. Critics say the polls are a sham aimed at legitimising the regime's grip on power.

 

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