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UN Special Envoy Arrives in Burma - 2003-09-30


The U.N. special envoy to Burma has arrived in Rangoon on mission to persuade the military government to free democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest and revive reconciliation talks with her.

Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail declined comment after arriving today (Tuesday). He is expected to meet with senior leaders including General Than Shwe, the head of the ruling military council, and new Prime Minister Khin Nyunt.

Diplomats expect Mr. Razali will be allowed to see opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is recuperating from surgery at her lakeside Rangoon home, but remains under house arrest.

Until her surgery last week, the head of the National League for Democracy had been detained at a secret location for more than three months after her supporters clashed with a pro-government mob in northern Burma at the end of May.

On Monday, Burma's foreign minister told the United Nations General Assembly his country is committed to democracy, even though the government continues to restrict Aung San Suu Kyi's movements.

Foreign Minister Win Aung did not mention The Nobel Peace laureate by name but he said the military council that rules Burma has what he called the "political will" to effect a smooth transition to democracy.

The United States renewed its demand for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate release Monday. A State Department spokesman also said Burma's military government had blocked U.S. diplomats from meeting with her doctor over the past several days.

Mr. Razali is the one who first persuaded the Burmese government to talk with the pro-democracy campaigner at the end of 2000. That dialogue has been stalled for many months.

Burma's neighbors in Southeast Asia have been trying to persuade the ruling military to free Aung San Suu Kyi ahead of a regional summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali next week.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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