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UN Chief Will Visit Burma Again, Only when Conditions Right

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed growing frustration with the military government in Burma, calling once again on its leadership to release all political prisoners and start a genuine dialogue with the opposition. The secretary-general convened a meeting late Friday with representatives from numerous countries that make up his friends on Myanmar group. Myanmar is the other name by which Burma is known.

He said since the group last met in September, there is a growing frustration among himself and members that their efforts have yet to yield results. "The government of Myanmar has officially declared that cooperation with the United Nations is a cornerstone of their foreign policy. We welcome it and we look forward to continue and expect concrete action by them to implement their commitment."

The group's meeting comes days after 112 former presidents and prime ministers from around the world sent a letter to the U.N. chief urging him to travel to Burma to secure the release of all political prisoners before the end of this year.

Human rights groups say there are more than two thousand prisoners of conscience in Burmese jails.

Mr. Ban told reporters following the closed-door session, that while he is ready to return to Burma to continue talks with the leadership on humanitarian and political issues, the timing would have to be right. "At this time it is not the right atmosphere for me to undertake my own visit there. But I am committed and ready to visit any time whenever I can have reasonable expectations of my visit to be productive and meaningful."

Mr. Ban visited Burma and met with top leaders after Cyclone Nargis devastated the country in May. His special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, has made four visits to that country in the last year. His last trip was widely criticized for not achieving any gains.

The secretary-general called on all countries that have influence with the government in Burma to use it to urge the government to honor its commitments.