May 19, 2006

UN envoy to press Myanmar for Suu Kyi meeting

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) - A top U.N. envoy traveled to Myanmar's
new jungle capital north of Yangon for talks with the country's
top general on Saturday in a bid to press for a meeting with
detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

The United States has insisted Ibrahim Gambari be allowed
to meet Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, who has been under house
arrest since 2003, but leaders of her National League for
Democracy (NLD) party said it was unlikely to happen.

Despite the looming obstacles for Gambari, the first senior
U.N. official allowed into the former Burma in more than two
years, NLD leaders said they expected him to persevere during
his meeting with junta leader Than Shwe.

"Mr. Gambari still has not got the permission he had asked
for to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The NLD requested him to call
for a meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi when he meets the
authorities concerned," NLD spokesman U Myint Thein told
reporters after a meeting with Gambari, the U.N.
undersecretary-general for political affairs, on Friday.

Gambari's visit comes amid mounting pressure on the NLD,
which won a landslide election victory in 1990 only to be
denied power by the army which has ruled in various guises
since 1962.

The junta accused it last month of having ties to
"terrorists and destructive groups" and said it had cause to
ban the party, but would allow it to exist for now.

Since then, the party has been hit by a spate of
resignations which NLD officials blame on pressure from the

On Thursday, President Bush renewed broad sanctions for one
year because the junta had made little progress on human rights
and democracy.

"These actions and policies are hostile to U.S. interests
and pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the
national security and foreign policy of the United States,"
Bush said in a message to Congress.

"For this reason, I have determined that it is necessary to
continue the national emergency with respect to Burma and
maintain in force the sanctions against Burma to respond to
this threat," Bush said.

Indonesia's foreign minister, Hassan Wirajuda, echoed the
U.S. call for reform on Friday by urging Myanmar's main trade
partners -- China, India and South Korea -- to use their
influence to coax the secretive regime to allow more democracy.

Gambari has not spoken to reporters during his 3-day visit,
which ends on Saturday. The Nigerian envoy had also been
expected to query the junta about what appears to be their
biggest offensive against the Karen minority ethnic group in a

Thousands of Karen, a mainly Christian ethnic minority
making up around 10 percent of the population, have fled to the
Thai-Myanmar border since December to escape what some
described as genocide at the hands of the SPDC, as the junta is

Gambari is to brief foreign diplomats on Saturday after
meeting Than Shwe.