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Top UN official visits Myanmar; expected to meet Suu Kyi

UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari is also scheduled to meet ministers for foreign affairs and labour.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 12:06 IST

A senior UN official arrived in Myanmar on Thursday for a widely watched visit that the United Nations has said will include a meeting with detained Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

UN Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, who was granted a rare opportunity to meet with Suu Kyi during his last visit in May, was also scheduled to meet Myanmar's leaders for talks on human rights during his four-day visit to the military-ruled nation.

Suu Kyi has been kept in near solitary confinement at her lakeside home in Yangon, and is generally not allowed outside visitors or telephone contact.

Western nations and the United Nations have repeatedly called for Suu Kyi's release.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he wants Gambari's visit to produce "tangible steps forward" on human rights, democratic reforms and national reconciliation in Myanmar, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.

While Myanmar's secretive leaders have not confirmed a meeting with Suu Kyi, Dujarric said Gambari was expected to meet with "senior officials and with actors from across the political spectrum, including all those with whom he met during his first visit in May of this year."

Asked whether that includes Suu Kyi, Dujarric said, "he met with Aung San Suu Kyi in the past and that would include her."

Gambari is also scheduled to meet representatives of UN agencies and the ministers for foreign affairs, labour and national planning and development. He will be flown to the new administrative capital, Naypyidaw, 400 kms north of Yangon to meet the country's leader Senior Gen Than Shwe over the weekend.

Gambari will also observe meetings of the National Convention, which is establishing guidelines for the country's long-awaited new constitution -- the first step in a seven-stage "road map to democracy" which is supposed to culminate in free elections at some unspecified point in the future.

The United Nations has been one of the louder voices calling for democratic reforms in Myanmar, also called Burma, and the junta has responded by barring UN special envoys from the country.

The last one, Razali Ismail, resigned in frustration shortly after a 2004 visit.

Gambari, who met with Suu Kyi in May for about 45 minutes at his government guesthouse, was the first foreigner to visit with her since Razali in March 2004.

Suu Kyi has spent 11 of the last 17 years in detention, mostly under house arrest.

Myanmar's military rulers seized power in 1988 after violently crushing a pro-democracy movement.

The junta called elections in 1990 but refused to hand over power when the vote was won by the party of Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel peace prize in 1991.

First Published: Nov 09, 2006 12:06 IST