Image: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi
AFP - Getty Images FILE
Myanmar pro-democracy leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.
updated 10/25/2007 8:23:55 AM ET 2007-10-25T12:23:55

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi — under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years — met for about one hour with a Myanmar government official Thursday afternoon, a diplomat said.

Suu Kyi was driven a few minutes from her home to a government guest house, where she held talks with newly appointed liaison minister, Aung Kyi. The information came from a diplomat who did not want to be identified for political reasons.

A retired major general, Aung Kyi was appointed to the post on Oct. 8 to hold talks with Suu Kyi.

It is not clear if this is Suu Kyi's first meeting with Aung Kyi, who on Wednesday was elevated to labor minister from deputy labor minister.

With Aung Kyi's appointment, the junta said it hoped to achieve "smooth relations" with Suu Kyi. Early this month the New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece of the junta, printed a brief official announcement on its front page saying that Kyi had been appointed "minister for relations" to coordinate contacts with Suu Kyi, the country's democracy icon.

Appointing a liaison officer was suggested by U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari during his Sept. 29-Oct. 2 visit to Myanmar, state media said.

Gambari met with both top junta officials and Suu Kyi.

Largest protest rallies in years
A protest movement began Aug. 19 over the government raising fuel prices. It mushroomed over weeks into a broad-based anti-government movement pressing for democratic reforms.

Tens of thousands demonstrated — the largest protests in nearly two decades of brutal military rule.

Gambari's trip came after troops quelled mass protests with gunfire. The government said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200 and say 6,000 people were detained, including thousands of monks.

Political contact?
Aung Kyi's exact duties have not been detailed, but it appeared he would coordinate all of Suu Kyi's contacts with both the regime and the United Nations, which is seeking to end the political deadlock between democracy advocates and a military that has ruled since 1962.

Aung Kyi has a reputation among foreign diplomats, U.N. officials and aid groups as being relatively accessible and reasonable compared to top junta leaders, who are highly suspicious of outsiders. He has had the delicate task of dealing with the International Labor Organization, which accuses the junta of using forced labor.

Early this month the government announced that junta leader Senior Gen. Than Shwe was willing to meet with Suu Kyi — but only if she met certain conditions, like renouncing support for foreign countries' economic sanctions against the military regime.

Than Shwe has only met Suu Kyi once before, in 2002.

It remains unknown if Suu Kyi will accept the offer, which also demanded she drop her alleged efforts backing "confrontation" and "utter devastation." The ruling generals have accused her and her party of collaborating with foreign nations to sabotage their own plans for a phased return to democracy.

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