Myanmar's Junta chief Senior General Than Shwe has agreed to meet democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, but only if she stops calling for confrontation, "utter devastation" and economic sanctions against the regime, state-media said on Friday.
"If she declares to give them up, the senior general will personally meet with her," said a government announcement published in The New Light of Myanmar. <b1>
Than Shwe reportedly announced his conditions for meeting Suu Kyi to UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari on Tuesday during a diplomatic "courtesy call".
Than Shwe, 74, who heads Myanmar's all-powerful military since 1992, is known to personally despise Suu Kyi, the daughter of Aung San, Myanmar's independence hero who was assassinated in 1948.
He has never met the 1991 Nobel peace laureate and there is a great deal of scepticism about his willingness to do so in the near future.
The Junta also invited the top US diplomat in Myanmar to meet senior leaders of the regime. Shari Villarosa, charge d'affaires of the downgraded US mission, travelled to the new administrative capital of Naypyidaw, 350 km from Yangon, for talks Friday.
"Many Burmese suspect that having preconditions prior to the meeting is aimed to be used as an excuse for the failure of meeting," said Khin Maung Win, an editor at the Oslo-based opposition radio station Democratic Voice of Burma. "They are creating conditions in advance to blame Daw (Mrs) Aung San Suu Kyi for the failure," he added.
Suu Kyi, 62, has been under house arrest in her family compound in Yangon since May 2003.
A doubling of fuel prices sparked the latest round of protests on August 15.
In Bangkok, leaders of Burmese democracy groups in exile cast doubt on Than Shwe's intentions, but agreed that it could represent an opening that should be explored.
The junta blamed the protests that have rocked Myanmar for more than a month on "a political party and other organisations aspiring to create unrest".
"Unrest occurred due to attempts of those who want to gain power through shortcuts and that of some foreign nations to destabilise the nation," said an official announcement.
It also blamed the international condemnation sparked by Myanmar's crackdown on monk-led protests last week on "lopsided broadcasts of some international media".