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Japanese Envoy in Burma Demands Release of Aung San Suu Kyi - 2003-06-23


A senior Japanese government official has met with one of Burma's most powerful generals in a bid to win the release of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Deputy Foreign Minister Tetsuro Yano met briefly Monday with Burma's military intelligence chief and third-ranking leader, General Khin Nyunt. Media reports say Mr. Yano delivered a message from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

The diplomat from Tokyo also met with his Burmese counterpart, Khin Maung Win, and Home Minister Tin Hlaing. Details of their talks have not been revealed.

Japan is Burma's biggest donor. It has threatened to cut back aid if the military government does not release the Nobel peace laureate and several of her supporters. They were arrested May 30th after a violent clash with people who were protesting Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy.

Mr. Yano's one-day mission to Burma came as an International Red Cross delegation in the country prepared to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi's imprisoned supporters.

A Red Cross official (Alfredo Mallet) Sunday said the the six-member team will stay in the area for about a week, checking on the well-being of members of the opposition group. The team expects to meet with the party vice chairman, Tin Oo. But the military government is denying access to the party's famous leader.

The government says Aung San Suu Kyi is in protective custody. The British government Monday said she is being held in a hut at the notorious Insein prison outside Rangoon.

Britain, the United States and the European Union have initiated sanctions against Burma for detaining Aung San Suu Kyi and her associates.

Japan generally has taken a softer stance on the military government than Western nations. Tokyo has not made clear what action it might take to press for her freedom.

Some information for this report is provided by AP and AFP

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