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UN Envoy Meets with Detained Burmese Opposition Leader

The United Nations' special envoy on Burma has met with detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, to discuss political reform in the military-run country. But it is not clear if the military's top leader will grant him a similar meeting.

The U.N. envoy on Burma, Ibrahim Gambari, met for more than an hour Monday with Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders at the state guest house.

Aung San Suu Kyi was allowed to leave her villa compound, where Burma's military-led government has kept her under house arrest for most of the last 18 years.

"Certainly that he's been able to meet her this time is, in itself, very significant. But, of course, we don't know what was discussed," said Aye Win, a U.N. spokesman based in Burma.

The meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi is a step forward, compared to the envoy's last visit in August. During that visit, she declined to meet the envoy after he was refused a meeting with Burma's top military leader, General Than Shwe.

It is not clear if General Shwe will meet with Gambari during his four-day visit, which ends Tuesday.

Shortly after the meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi, a spokesman for her National League for Democracy party called for the release of political prisoners.

Human rights organizations say there are more than 2,000 political prisoners in Burma.

Gambari is in Burma to encourage the release of political prisoners and implementation of political reform.

The military government says it will hold multi-party elections in 2010, as part of its "road map to democracy." But the generals have already written a new constitution that will ensure the military stays in power.

Thailand-based political analyst Win Min says the military leaders have shown no concessions.

"I doubt it will be a free and fair election, given the restrictions, and the regressions the military has been doing," Min said. "So, I doubt there will be free and fair elections, if the situation continues like this."

The military has ruled Burma since 1962, crushing any opposition.

The military leaders allowed an election in 1990 that Aung SanSuu Kyi's party won by a landslide. The military then refused to honor the results, imprisoned opposition leaders and placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.