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'UN special envoy Gambari arrives in Myanmar'

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Myanmar for fresh talks with the ruling junta, officials said, less than six months after his last trip ended in deadlock.

world Updated: Feb 01, 2009 04:10 IST

UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari arrived in Myanmar on Saturday for fresh talks with the ruling junta, officials said, less than six months after his last trip ended in deadlock.

As with previous visits, Myanmar's military rulers have kept the UN diplomat in the dark over his itinerary in the country, though details began to emerge on Saturday.

"He will meet with the foreign minister (Nyan Win) this afternoon and then he will go to the UN headquarters in Yangon," a senior Myanmar official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Officials earlier confirmed Gambari would spend the entire four-day trip in Yangon and would meet the information minister.

The junta has shown no sign of willingness to embrace Gambari's role, failing to invite him to their remote capital in Naypyidaw during his past two missions in Yangon, in March and August 2008.

Another Myanmar official said Gambari was likely to meet detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday, echoing the expectations of her opposition National League of Democracy (NLD).

Gambari was appointed by the UN in early 2006 to mediate in reconciliation talks between the junta and the opposition.

Aung San Suu Kyi surprised observers by refusing to meet with the Nigerian diplomat during his mission last August, a move interpreted as a snub after he had failed to secure any political reform in Myanmar.

The democracy leader has spent most of the past 19 years under house arrest at her lakeside house in Yangon, seeing only her personal doctor and occasionally her lawyer.

Gambari landed in the main city of Yangon, UN and airport officials said. He left the airport shortly afterwards and was driven to his hotel in the city.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon had asked Gambari "to continue his consultations with the government and other relevant parties," UN deputy spokeswoman Marie Okabe said in a statement Friday confirming the trip.

Diplomats said the late confirmation from the United Nations was because Gambari's previous visits had been deemed unsuccessful in negotiating any political reforms.

Gambari hopes to secure progress ahead of a possible visit by UN Secretary General Ban later this year, one diplomat told AFP.

The diplomat said the regime was now so "sure of itself" it was opening up a little to the international community.

There was no indication of whether the issue of Myanmar's Rohingya ethnic minority would be on the agenda.

Human rights group Amnesty International called on Myanmar Friday to stop persecuting its Rohingya people, hundreds of whom were found adrift in open waters after attempting to seek refuge in Thailand.

Myanmar has been ruled by the military since 1962. The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 elections, but the junta has never allowed it to take office.

The Myanmar regime, which adopted a new constitution last year, says it intends to organise elections in 2010.

But the United States, the European Union and the United Nations have dismissed the lengthy proceedings as a sham because of the absence of the NLD.

Dialogue between the regime and the NLD that took place after Buddhist monk-led demonstrations against the junta in 2007 has ground to a halt.

The last known meeting between Aung San Suu Kyi and the government took place in January 2008.