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UN Envoy Gambari urges Japan to pressure Burmese regime to talk


A UN envoy hailed talks between detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a newly appointed official of Burma's military junta, but said Friday that the meeting was just the beginning.

"We welcome that,'' said Ibrahim Gambari, in Tokyo for talks with top Japanese officials as part of a six-nation tour to drum up international pressure on Burma to end its crackdown on pro-democracy activists.

"But it's only the first step, so this should lead to early resumption of talks that will lead to tangible results,'' Gambari told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.

Suu Kyi, under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years, met Thursday with retired Maj. Gen. Aung Kyi, who was appointed Oct. 8 as liaison minister for the talks under a UN brokered attempt to nudge her and the military junta toward reconciliation.

Some Western diplomats and regime critics in Burma remained skeptical, noting that similar earlier meetings produced nothing and seemed merely aimed at easing international pressure on the junta.

"She's very conscious of the difficulties her people are experiencing,'' Gambari told Japan's public broadcaster NHK, referring to Suu Kyi. "Her concern is to put an end to the violence and that prisoners are released.''

In his talks with Fukuda, Gambari urged Japan's further support for U.N. efforts to improve the situation in Burma.

Later Friday, Gambari held talks with Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura, stressing the need for Burma's regional neighbors, as well as China, India and Japan, to strongly encourage Burma to address international concerns and lead that country to "a right direction,'' the ministry said in a statement.

Komura assured Gambari of Japan's support amid an international push for democratic and human rights reforms in Burma.

The UN is seeking an end to the political deadlock between democracy advocates and the military, which has ruled Burma since 1962. Gambari, wrapping up an Asian tour to discuss the issue, has also visited China, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and India. He is scheduled to head back to New York on Saturday.

Burma's junta has said 10 people were killed during a crackdown on massive pro-democracy protests last month, but dissident groups put the death toll at up to 200 and say thousands of others, including Buddhist monks, were detained.

Japan, a major aid donor to Burma, has canceled a multimillion-dollar grant for a business education project following the shooting death of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai in Burma's biggest city, Yangon, while he was covering the September crackdown.

Tokyo has long faced criticism for being lenient toward Burma's military rulers.

Information for this report is provided by APTN.

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