Image: San Suu Kyi
Myanmar News Agency via AFP - Ge
A picture provided by Myanmar News Agency  Aung San Suu Kyi, left, meeting senior party leaders in Yangon on Friday.
updated 11/9/2007 6:05:19 AM ET 2007-11-09T11:05:19

Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi on Friday met members of her opposition party for the first time since 2004, as she pledged to cooperate with the regime that has kept her under house arrest for years.

The pro-democracy leader also met with a junta official appointed to liaise with her, a Myanmar official said, amid hopes of a thaw in relations with the generals who crushed street protests against their rule in September.

Aung San Suu Kyi spoke with members of her National League for Democracy at a government guest house in Yangon, an NLD source told Agence France-Presse, the first time she has been allowed to see them since May 2004.

The party source said he believed the three central executive committee members held a joint meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi and Labour Minister Aung Kyi, whom the junta has appointed as a go-between with the opposition leader.

Witnesses said the Nobel peace prize winner spent around two-and-a-half hours in the building. The meetings follow UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari's six-day mission to Asia, which he said had led to progress towards establishing a dialogue between the junta and the country's pro-democracy movement.

'Ready to cooperate'
Aung San Suu Kyi, in a statement read out by Gambari in Singapore, said she was willing to cooperate with the junta, which has ruled Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, for the past 45 years.

"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.

It was the first such pledge since she was last put under house arrest in 2003.

"Daw Suu's statement was an important one for the benefit of the people and the country. We are also satisfied with it," NLD spokesman Nyan Win told AFP.

"It is potentially good," said a political analyst in Myanmar who asked not to be named.

"Most people wanted to see an improvement (in relations between NLD and junta)," the analyst said.

"People are so desperate." Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of independence hero General Aung San, has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest at her lakeside home in Yangon.

'Constructive' talks
She welcomed the appointment last month of Aung Kyi as the government's go-between, describing October 25 talks with him as "constructive".

"I expect that this phase of preliminary consultations will conclude soon so that a meaningful and timebound dialogue with the SPDC (government) leadership can start as early as possible," said Aung San Suu Kyi, widely known as "The Lady." Any dialogue with the junta would be "guided by the policies and wishes" of her party, but she would also need to consult with other groups and ethnic minorities, according to her statement read by Gambari.

The Nigerian diplomat met Aung San Suu Kyi on Thursday after warning the junta against a return to the status quo that existed before the mass pro-democracy protests were put down.

His mission ended without a meeting with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe, although the UN envoy met several officials and NLD members.

The junta head had previously offered dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi but on condition that she drop her support for international sanctions, which have been further tightened since the September crackdown.

The generals appear determined to follow their own so-called "road map" to democracy that has so far excluded Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, which won an overwhelming election victory in 1990 but was never allowed to take office.

"As desired by the people, the government will continue carrying out democratic reforms in accordance with the seven-step road map," the New Light of Myanmar said Friday at the end of full-page coverage of Gambari's visit.

"And it will also continue striving earnestly for national reconsolidation in true cooperation with the UN," it said.

The pro-democracy protests began in mid-August after a massive hike in the price of everyday fuel, but escalated into the biggest threat to the generals in nearly 20 years when Buddhist monks emerged to lead the movement.

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