U.S. first lady Laura Bush is urging China and India to push Burma's military leaders to open direct talks with the part of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Burma released the country's longest-serving political prisoner after 19 years in detention.
The president and Mrs. Bush met with pro-democracy and human rights activists while in New York for the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
Speaking to reporters after their meeting, President Bush said he assured those activists that the U.S. government believes in the universality of freedom and America has an obligation to help others realize the blessings of liberty.
Mrs. Bush urged Burma's military government to open talks with Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party and all of the country's ethnic groups to rebuild the country.
"I want to urge all the neighbors of Burma - China and India and other neighbors - to continue trying to talk to the Burmese General Than Shwe to see if he can't do what all the world, the international community wants him to do and that is start respecting the rights of the people of Burma, start a real dialogue for a transition to democracy," said Laura Bush.
One of the dissidents who met with the president and Mrs. Bush was a Buddhist monk named Kovita who went into exile after last year's pro-democracy protests.
"We all need human rights, all the world's people, because we are all human," said Kovita.
He said he hopes the international community will help the Burmese people change their government peacefully.
The U.S. State Department Tuesday welcomed Burma's release of journalist Win Tin, who was the country's longest-serving political prisoner. State Department spokesman Robert Wood said Washington hopes the release is a first step toward freedom for all jailed dissidents.
Win Tin was arrested in 1989 and sentenced to 20 years for allegedly writing anti-government propaganda