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UN Rights Envoy Visits Burmese Monastery Before Talks With Generals


The United Nations' human-rights investigator for Burma has visited a Buddhist monastery ahead of his meetings this week with the country's military leaders.

Envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, allowed back into Burma for the first time since 2003, traveled Sunday from Rangoon to the town of Bago, 80 kilometers to the north. Monasteries there were among those targeted in a government crackdown six weeks ago on human-rights activists.

Monday Pinheiro is expected to visit the military leadership's isolated capital, Naypyidaw.

The Brazilian legal scholar, known as a sharp critic of Burma's generals, is on a five-day visit. He says he is determined to gain access to prisons and detention centers, as part of an investigation of alleged human-rights abuses sanctioned by the government.

PInheiro also is trying to determine how many people were killed or detained in the crackdown on recent opposition protests.

Burmese military authorities say 10 people were killed and about 3,000 arrested during the protests, which began in September, with Buddhist monks playing a leading role. Diplomats and human-rights groups contend true figure are much higher in both cases.

Before arriving in Burma, Pinheiro said he would leave immediately if he does not get the military government's full support. That recalled his last previous visit to Burma, in March 2003, when the U.N. envoy abruptly left the country after finding a listening device planted in a room where he was interviewing political prisoners.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest in Rangoon, says she is ready to cooperate with the military in a dialogue and welcomes United Nations mediation efforts.

Amnesty International, which says the Burmese government is guilty of "grave human-rights violations," has called on the military leadership to cooperate with Pinheiro.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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