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UN Envoy Meets With Burmese Opposition Leader, Senior Military Officials - 2002-08-03

The United Nations' special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail, met with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi Saturday as well as senior members of Burma's military government. The meetings mark the start of Mr. Razali's latest push for substantive reconciliation talks between the government and the opposition National League for Democracy.

The former Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail held talks with Burma's powerful intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, and later with National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The talks are the first major meetings Mr. Razali has held since his arrival Friday on his eighth visit to Burma in 18 months. His mission is to spur political reforms in Burma after 40 years of military rule.

The meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi was the first since her release from house arrest in May. Mr. Razali had worked for Aung San Suu Kyi's freedom as part of what has been termed confidence building between the military and NLD.

NLD party secretary U Lwin told reporters the national reconciliation talks and the release of political prisoners top of Mr. Razali's agenda. U Lwin added he remains optimistic that more prisoners will be freed, following the release of 45 in July.

Since Mr. Razali began to broker talks in late 2000, the government has freed more than 300 political prisoners. Human rights groups say more than 200 NLD members remain behind bars, along with hundreds of other political prisoners.

The NLD won elections in a landslide victory in 1990 but has never been able to take power. The government instead has harassed and imprisoned party members. Senior Burmese diplomats recently played down Mr. Razali's visit. Foreign Minister Win Aung told reporters in Brunei during a recent regional gathering that the government would not be pushed into hasty reforms.

Mr. Razali's visit coincides with that of Japanese foreign minister, Yoriko Kawaguchi, the first by a Japanese foreign minister since 1983. Japan is a major aid donor to South East Asia. The Burmese government sees Tokyo as a vital source for investment and trade to help the battered economy.