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EU Delegation Meets with Pro-democracy Leaders in Burma

A European Union delegation has met with pro-democracy leaders in Burma at the end of a three-day visit. The visit comes amid political uncertainties after the Burmese government announced it had foiled a plot to overthrow the government.

The team of four European Union diplomats met Friday with senior leaders of the National League for Democracy of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. A spokesman said the delegates asked about the situation in Burma following the announced coup plot. The delegates were told the situation is a delicate matter and it is too soon to comment upon it.

The husband and three sons of the daughter of former dictator Ne Win were arrested last week and accused of plotting to overthrow the government. In addition, the chiefs of the air force and police and several senior officers were sacked for involvement in the alleged attempt.

Burmese officials said the accused were planning to kidnap the three senior leaders of the ruling military council and press them into supporting a new government loyal to Ne Win. Ne Win stepped down in 1988 after 25 years of authoritarian rule, but he reportedly retained a great deal of influence in the military leadership.

Diplomats and political observers have expressed skepticism over the reported coup. Some say it appeared to be part of a power struggle that has emerged amidst the weakening health of the 90 year-old former ruler. Others said the move was aimed at sidelining the family of the former ruler, which was said to be increasingly irritated over its loss of privileges.

Still others linked it to differences within the ruling council over talks with the opposition. Some military leaders want to accelerate the talks in order to end Burma's international isolation. Others reportedly are resisting any concessions to the pro-democracy movement, which was repressed after elections 12 years ago that were won by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi's party.

Opposition leaders Friday said they briefed the EU delegates on the confidence-building talks that are aimed at leading to a transition to civilian democracy.

Western governments and some Burmese dissidents have criticized the talks as too slow. Others, like Professor Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwong of Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, note that many dissidents, including some of the ethnic minorities that have fought the government for decades, are pleased with the talks. "I think it is going quite well period. I was talking to some of the minority leaders in Bangkok and they also believe that the talks have been going well, and it is the right time even for the minorities to have some kind of dialogue with the SPDC [ruling council]," Professor Chaiyachoke said.

The EU visit to Burma comes one month before the European Union is to review its common position on Burma. That position currently includes a ban on visas for council members as well as trade and aid sanctions.