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UN Envoy Urges Ethnic Leaders To Support Burmese Junta's Road Map - 2003-10-01


United Nations envoy Razali Ismail, on a three-day mission to Burma, is telling the country's ethnic leaders to back the military government's "road map" to national elections. Mr. Razali is urging these leaders to support democracy measures as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is urging Burma to make the full transition by 2006.

Razali Ismail, the U.N. special envoy to Burma, met Wednesday with several of the country's ethnic political parties before seeing Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Reports say Mr. Razali asked the chairman of the ethnic Shan Nationalities League for Democracy and other ethnic leaders to support the military government's recently announced road map to national elections and a new constitution.

Mr. Razali had earlier endorsed the road map when announced by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in late August. The government -- known as the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC -- has not said when it would be implemented.

The U.N. envoy met with Khin Nyunt before seeing Aung San Suu Kyi, where she is under house arrest and recovering from recent surgery.

Mr. Razali, on his 11th visit to Burma, is seeking to have Aung San Suu Kyi freed and to restart talks between the military government and Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, or NLD.

His visit coincided with a statement from U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, who is pressing for the same political dialogue and pressing for a democratic transition by 2006.

Mr. Annan says the on-going detention of Aung San Suu Kyi indicates that three years of national reconciliation talks have stopped.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained since a May 30th clash between her supporters and pro-government supporters in northern Burma. The SPDC says Aung San Suy Kyi is being held for her own protection but does not say when she will be freed.

A director with the Network for Democratic Development in Burma, Naing Aung, says Aung San Suu Kyi's release would be just a first step toward national reconciliation.

"To achieve national reconciliation, to achieve peace, to achieve democracy I think that it's not only the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders, but there should be a broader process," Naing Aung said.

Mr. Naing Aung wants Mr. Razali to press the S-P-D-C to allow the NLD and other political parties to operate freely.

"Mr. Razali should convince the SPDC to release the leaders of the opposition - especially Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD executive committee members - and then allow the political parties to move (about) freely," Naing Aung said.

Burma is under intense pressure to free Aung San Suu Kyi before the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member, on October 7th.

Fears are that unless Mr. Razali achieves a break-through this week, the political impasse in Burma may dominate the agenda at the ASEAN summit.

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