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UN envoy paves way for Ban Myanmar visit: state TV

world Updated: Jun 27, 2009 18:37 IST

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The UN's special envoy to Myanmar met the country's foreign minister to prepare for a trip by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a government official and state television said on Saturday.

Rights groups fear any such visit will lend legitimacy to the ruling junta's trial of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel Peace laureate is in prison and faces up to five years in jail on the charges she violated her house arrest after an uninvited American man swam to her closely guarded lakeside home last month and stayed two days. Her trial has spark international outrage.

Details of the visit by envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who arrived on Friday, were not disclosed by the UN. But a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, confirmed that Gambari met Foreign Minister U Nyan Win in the capital of Naypyitaw.

State television later reported the two discussed plans for a visit by Ban. British Ambassador Mark Canning said on Friday that he also believed Gambari was setting the stage for Ban.

Ban recently told The Associated Press that he was looking at the "appropriate timing" for a visit.

Human Rights Watch and some governments have urged UN chief not to visit now, arguing the trip could be exploited by the military government, which might portray it as an endorsement of the legitimacy of Suu Kyi's trial.

But Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party supports the trip, and other countries say the alternative is to do nothing and miss an opportunity to have the secretary-general press for Suu Kyi's release and push for more open and inclusive elections next year.

Gambari returned on Saturday to Yangon from the capital of Naypyitaw, and he was scheduled to depart on Saturday night for New York via Bangkok. He was not expected to meet Suu Kyi or members of her National League for Democracy.

It was Gambari's eighth visit since 2006 when he was appointed the UN chief's special representative to promote political reconciliation in Myanmar. The envoy has met with both junta leaders and Suu Kyi but failed to nudge the military regime toward talks with the pro-democracy movement.

The UN has called repeatedly for political reconciliation in Myanmar, including the release of Suu Kyi. The country has been under military rule since 1962, and the junta refused to recognize the results of 1990 general elections won by Suu Kyi's party. Suu Kyi's trial has drawn outrage from the international community and from her local supporters, who say the military government is using the incident as an excuse to keep her detained through the 2010 elections.