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Burma Praises Efforts of UN Envoy

The military government of Burma has praised U.N. special envoy Razali Ismail for his efforts to promote dialogue between the government and pro-democracy groups, but is urging patience.

The Burmese government issued a statement Wednesday expressing appreciation for what it termed Mr. Razali's persistent and patient efforts on behalf of national reconciliation.

The statement said the U.N. special envoy held an open discussion with the three senior leaders of the junta, Generals Than Shwe, Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt. It said the meeting helped clarify issues and expand confidence.

The statement noted the government has signed peace agreements with 17 armed national groups, its term for ethnic rebels. And it said it is committed to reaching similar agreements with all other groups.

Mr. Razali last week visited Burma for the ninth time in two years, seeking dialogue between the military government and the pro-democracy National League for Democracy, or NLD.

A spokesman for the party, U Lwin, said Mr. Razali told NLD officials he presented proposals to Senior General Than Shwe. But Mr. U Lwin said recently the Burmese government told the U.N. envoy that it was already doing its utmost for the Burmese people. "Progress? No. No progress," he said. "He had a chance of meeting Than Shwe [for] the first time, but he didn't get the proper answer from him. That might be rather disappointing."

Mr. Razali indicated to reporters after leaving Burma that he was disappointed with his visit but said he would continue his mediation efforts. He also said he expects the government to release 200 more political prisoners by the end of the year.

Burma has released about 700 political prisoners in recent months. The authorities have also allowed the NLD to resume political activities. Party leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in May and is now on an extended visit to the Shan state in eastern Burma.

But the talks on political reform have not progressed beyond the confidence-building stage.

Western governments have urged the government to speed up the talks and say they will maintain economic sanctions against Burma until there is more progress towards democracy.