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UN Envoy Makes Another Attempt at Burma Reconcilation - 2001-08-26

The U.N. envoy for Burma is to make a fresh attempt this week to further bridge the gap between Burma's military government and democratic opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The visit will be the envoy's fifth since his appointment in April.

U.N. special envoy for Burma Razali Ismail will try to accelerate reconciliation talks between Burma's military Government and the pro-democracy opposition.

The former Malaysian diplomat, who begins a four-day mission Monday, is to meet with the military government, including Senior General Than Shwe and intelligence chief Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt. He will also meet National League for Democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for almost a year.

Although the talks between the military government and Aung San Suu Kyi are reported to have made little progress, Rangoon-based diplomats say Mr. Ismail has been able to create a degree of confidence between the two sides.

Diplomats say Mr. Ismail's visits have been vital in the efforts to bridge the gaps between the two sides.

The military administration has been in power since 1988. It failed to hand over power to Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, despite the party winning a landslide victory in 1990 elections.

There have been few signs of concrete progress in the talks towards political reconciliation. The most obvious signs have been the release of around 170 political prisoners - including key National League for Democracy members.

But diplomats are reported saying Aung San Suu Kyi is frustrated with the number of political prisoners released - of which only 60 are from a 200-member priority list set down by the National League for Democracy.

Diplomats and human rights groups have expressed fears the talks may stall, and Mr. Ismail's visits have been seen as crucial in maintaining momentum.

The Association of South East Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member, and western countries have pressured the military government to continue the reconciliation talks.