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Dissident to cooperate with Myanmar junta

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said she is ready to cooperate with her country's junta in pursuing a dialogue for national reconciliation, according to her statement  on Thursday.
/ Source: news services

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said she is ready to cooperate with her country's junta in pursuing a dialogue for national reconciliation, according to her statement released by a U.N. envoy on Thursday.

"In the interest of the nation I stand ready to cooperate with the government in order to make this process of dialogue a success," said Suu Kyi in her statement, released by the envoy, Ibrahim Gambari.

Gambari met Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, for an hour just before his departure Thursday from Myanmar. He flew to Singapore where he read out a statement issued by Suu Kyi at a news conference. He is supposed to return to U.N. headquarters in New York by Monday.

Earlier, the military government announced that it will allow Suu Kyi to meet her party’s officials Friday, the first such meeting in more than three years.

Aung Kyi, the government minister in charge of relations with Suu Kyi, will see her first to make arrangements for the meeting, state media said.

Suu Kyi has been detained since May 2003, and has not seen fellow executive members of her National League for Democracy since May 2004.

Suu Kyi, the 1991 Nobel Peace laureate, has spent 12 of the past 18 years in detention. Her release, along with that of other political prisoners, is one of the main demands made by the junta’s critics.

U.N. efforts
Gambari was sent to Myanmar by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a mandate to promote political reconciliation after the U.N. Security Council condemned September’s crackdown.

He flew Thursday to Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, after several days of talks with government officials and other parties in the remote new capital of Naypyitaw.

On Wednesday he met with recently appointed Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein, the U.N. said in another statement, adding that he had delivered a letter from Secretary-General Ban addressed to Than Shwe. The statement gave no details of the letter.

The U.N. statement said Gambari suggested to Thein Sein specific steps to satisfy international concerns about Myanmar’s political deadlock, which began with the military’s failure to hand over power to Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party after it won a 1990 general election.

“These (steps) include the need for dialogue with the opposition without delay as part of an inclusive national reconciliation process, as well as necessary confidence-building measures in the humanitarian and socio-economic areas, including the establishment of a broad-based poverty alleviation commission,” the U.N. statement said.

It said Thein Sein reiterated his government’s support for Gambari’s efforts and invited him to return to Myanmar.

The junta is expected to host the U.N.’s special investigator for human rights in Myanmar, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who has been invited for five-day visit starting Sunday.

Gambari also met senior members of Suu Kyi’s party in Naypyitaw, as well as executives of the National Unity Party — formerly the Burma Socialist Programme Party of the late dictator Ne Win.

‘Did not bear fruit’
During an early October visit to Myanmar, Gambari met with both Than Shwe and Suu Kyi, who is usually allowed no contact with outsiders under the terms of her house arrest.

Security was tightened Thursday along the roads Gambari traveled on, in an evident attempt to dissuade any protesters from making an appearance.

Organized supporters of the junta were stationed in small groups near the guest house where Gambari met Suu Kyi. They have previously been used as strong-arm squads against dissidents—including ahead of September’s crackdown, when the military killed at least 10 protesters and arrested thousands of people. Diplomats and dissidents say the death toll was much higher.

The junta’s rejection of three-way talks with Suu Kyi and Gambari came during his Tuesday meeting with Information Minister Kyaw Hsan, the state-run New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

Kyaw Hsan told Gambari that his earlier visit “did not bear fruit as we had expected,” and instead was followed by new sanctions from the United States, Australia and the European Union as well as condemnation from the U.N. Security Council, the newspaper said.

“I would like you to know that Myanmar is a small nation and if a big power bullies her ... we will have no other way but to face this and endure,” Kyaw Hsan said.

The minister said Suu Kyi had yet to respond to the government’s request that she refrain from calling for international sanctions against Myanmar, a condition earlier set by the junta for talks with her.