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UN envoy meets freed Suu Kyi aide

world Updated: Feb 18, 2010 20:31 IST

The freed deputy of Aung San Suu Kyi's party met a UN rights envoy in military-ruled Myanmar on Thursday and said the release of the Nobel Peace laureate was vital before elections, the opposition said.

UN special rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana held talks in the former capital Yangon with Tin Oo, the elderly vice chairman of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), and six other leading party members.

Myanmar's junta freed 83-year-old Tin Oo from house arrest at the weekend. He was detained along with Suu Kyi in 2003 after a pro-regime mob attacked their motorcade, killing dozens of people.

"We met for about one hour. We discussed the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the political prisoners," Tin Oo told reporters. Daw is a term of respect in Myanmar.

"We also spoke of our request for a meeting between the Senior General (Than Shwe) and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and for a meeting between (her) and our central committee members so that we can continue our work for the future," he said.

Suu Kyi wrote to government head Than Shwe in November to request a meeting with him. The pair last met in 2002.

Quintana told the NLD members that he had asked to meet Suu Kyi but had had no answer yet from the junta, Tin Oo said.

"Regarding (whether to participate in) the elections, we told him that we stick to our declaration," Tin Oo said.

The NLD signed declaration calls for a review of the country's 2008 constitution, brought in after a referendum held days after a devastating cyclone in Myanmar that left an estimated 138,000 people dead.

The constitution bars Suu Kyi from standing in elections promised for this year and reserves a quarter of parliamentary seats for the military.

Myanmar's generals have not yet set a date for the polls, adding to international fears that they are a sham designed to legitimise the regime's hold on power.

The NLD won by a landslide in Myanmar's last national polls in 1990 but the military prevented them from taking power. The latest elections are part of a "roadmap to democracy" announced by the junta.

Suu Kyi has been detained for most of the last two decades and her house arrest was extended by 18 months in August after an incident in which a US man swam to her lakeside house.

Among the other NLD members who also attended the meeting with Quintana was Win Tin, a dissident journalist who was Myanmar's longest serving prisoner until his release in September 2008.

Quintana, an Argentinian diplomat, arrived in Yangon Thursday from the northwestern town of Sittwe and went to the notorious Insein Prison, where dozens of dissidents are held.

On Wednesday, Quintana travelled to a prison in Rakhine state on the northwestern border with Bangladesh and met several political prisoners, sources said.

They included Htay Kywe, a prominent student activist serving a 65-year jail sentence for his role in mass protests led by Buddhist monks against the regime in 2007.

Myanmar's generals have also continued a crackdown on dissent launched after the protests. The United Nations says there are around 2,100 political detainees in the country.

Quintana is set to travel to the remote new capital Naypyidaw on Friday, the final day of his five-day trip, to meet Foreign Minister Nyan Win and other officials.

The UN envoy is not, however, scheduled to meet reclusive junta leader Than Shwe.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962.