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UN Envoy Calls on Burma to Produce Reforms


U.N. envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, says detained Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi seems to be in good health but needs more medical visits. The envoy spoke in Bangkok after a four-day trip to Burma - which focused on getting Burma's military rulers to take concrete steps toward political reform and national reconciliation with the democratic opposition.

Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.'s Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs, told reporters in Bangkok Monday that Aung San Suu Kyi is reasonably well, considering that she has been under house arrest for most of the past 17 years. But he says the 61-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner requires more regular medical visits.

Aung San Suu Kyi's doctor is one of the few people who have been allowed to visit her home in Rangoon, where she is confined. But he has been quoted as saying that he has not seen her since late August because of what he called "political developments" in Burma.

Gambari is the only foreigner allowed to meet with Aung Suu Kyi in several years. The first time was in May and they again met Saturday for an hour at a government guesthouse in Rangoon.

Gambari says that Aung San Suu Kyi, who heads the National League for Democracy, welcomed the U.N.'s continued commitment to address political and humanitarian issues in Burma, which has been renamed Myanmar by the military.

"She is very alert. She is concerned not just about her own welfare but the welfare of the people of Myanmar, all of them, and also, of course, the contribution that her party, the NLD, and others can make to peace, development, democracy and enjoyment of human rights," said Gambari.

Gambari says his talks with the military junta, including the top leader, General Than Shwe, were more frank and constructive than in May. He says he laid out U.N. concerns about Burma's human rights situation and political stagnation.

"The first meeting was diplomatic. It was an opening," he noted. "But now there is some hard bargaining and give and take. But as I said - and the British have an expression - 'the proof of the pudding is in the eating'. So now it is up to the authorities to have some concrete results from that visit."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan instructed Gambari to press the Burmese government to release more than 1,100 political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

The U.N. also wants the junta to open a political dialogue with the Aung San Suu Kyi's democratic opposition - which won elections in 1990 but has never been allowed to take power. The military has run the country in one form or another since 1962.

The military government has set up a national convention to write a new constitution, as the first step on what it says is a road map to democracy. But the NLD, the U.N. and Western countries regard the process as a sham aimed at keeping the military in power permanently.

Gambari's visit to Burma came two months after the United States succeeded in putting Burma's human rights situation on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council for the first time.

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