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UN envoy to visit Myanmar at month's end

world Updated: Jan 23, 2009 09:07 IST

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The special UN envoy tasked with promoting political reconciliation in Myanmar will visit the military-ruled country at the end of this month, a diplomat said. The visit by Ibrahim Gambari is set for January 31, the diplomat said on Thursday. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because the news has not yet been officially announced.

The visit comes in the wake of a judicial crackdown during which government courts handed down harsh prison sentences to scores of pro-democracy activists. It will be Gambari's first visit in five months, and his seventh since he began his assignment in mid-2006. The country's pro-democracy movement, whose leader is detained Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has been disappointed by Gambari's previous visits, which have failed to secure the release of Suu Kyi from more than 13 years under house arrest. During Gambari's last visit in August, Suu Kyi refused to meet him, and he also failed to be received by junta chief Senior Gen Than Shwe.

Nonetheless, the coming visit was welcomed by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

"I believe the special envoy's visit this time will be beneficial as the envoy and the NLD share the same principles on achieving political reform in the country," party spokesman Nyan Win said on Friday.

During Gambari's visit, Nyan Win said his party will discuss the arrests and sentencing of more than 300 NLD members and other political prisoners last year.

The current junta came to power in 1988 after violently crushing a nationwide pro-democracy uprising. It called elections in 1990 but refused to honor the results after Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory.