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Suu Kyi meets democracy party, first time in 3 years

Latest update : 2008-01-07

Detained Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met the leaders of her National League for Democracy party for the first time in three years on Friday, amid hopes that talks with the junta may start soon.

YANGON, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Detained Myanmar opposition
leader Aung San Suu Kyi met leaders of her party on Friday for
the first time in more than three years as hope flickered she
and the junta may start talks on political reform.
 
"The meeting went very well," National League for Democracy
(NLD) spokesman Nyan Win said. He gave no details of the two
hours of discussions but said the 62-year-old Nobel laureate,
who last met her party colleagues in May 2004, "looked quite
well".
 
Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house
arrest, also had a second meeting with General Aung Kyi, a
go-between appointed as a result of world outrage at
September's bloody crackdown on democracy protests.
 
In a statement released on her behalf by U.N. envoy Ibrahim
Gambari after his second visit in a month, Suu Kyi described
her initial contact with Aung Kyi as constructive and said she
was ready to work with the military to establish proper
negotiations.
 
"In the interest of the nation, I stand ready to cooperate
with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a
success," she said in her first public comments since her
latest period of detention began in May 2003.
 
A junta statement saying it would "make efforts steadfastly
for national reconciliation with the correct cooperation of the
U.N. Secretary General" also gave cause for hope, despite the
army's litany of broken promises during its 45 years of rule.
 
"I find it very difficult to trust them. I hope this is not
some new ploy," a roadside book vendor in Yangon said.
 
Others echoed his scepticism of the generals.
 
"They have always acted in bad faith. These are people who
hold general elections that they then ignore. They are not
famous for sticking to their words," said Dominic Faulder, a
journalist in Bangkok who has covered the former Burma for 20
years.
 
"The pessimists have always been right in Burma, but one
day, once, they will be wrong."
 
SURPRISE BREAKTHROUGH?
 
The early signs from Gambari's six-day mission, his second
visit since the crackdown in which at least 10 people were
killed, were not good.
 
He failed to meet junta supremo Than Shwe and had to endure
a tirade from Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, who accused the
U.N. of being biased, meddling and subject to the whim of
Washington.
 
However, as Gambari left, the U.N. said he had managed to
establish a path to "substantive dialogue" between the generals
and Suu Kyi, who won a 1990 election landslide at the helm of
the NLD only to be denied power.
 
Gambari will brief the Security Council at U.N.
headquarters in New York next week.
 
He will also return to Myanmar "in coming weeks" to try to
keep the pressure on a regime that thrives on isolation and has
so far been impervious to outside influence.
 
Although the U.N. gave no details of what appeared to be a
surprise breakthrough, Suu Kyi's statement alluded to regular
contact between her and the junta, or State Peace and
Development Council (SPDC), as it calls itself.
 
"I expect that this phase of preliminary consultation will
conclude soon, so that a meaningful and time-bound dialogue
with the SPDC leadership can start as early as possible," she
said.
 
However, the tone of the regime's earlier rant against the
U.N., in which it also rejected Gambari's proposal of three-way
talks with himself and Suu Kyi, left diplomats dispirited.
 
"There's no doubt in my mind that this regime has no
intention of cooperating with Gambari or of starting a process
of genuine political dialogue," one Yangon-based diplomat said.
"It's beyond them."
 
The day before Gambari's arrival, the junta also told the
top U.N. resident diplomat he was being expelled for linking
August's fuel price protests to the dire state of the economy,
one of Asia's brightest prospects on independence from Britain
in 1948.
 
The protests snowballed quickly into the biggest street
revolt against military rule since 1988, when the army crushed
an uprising with the loss of an estimated 3,000 lives.

Date created : 2007-11-09

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