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UN Envoy Holding More Talks in Burma - 2001-11-27

The United Nations special envoy has arrived in Rangoon for another round of talks with Burma's military government and the democratic opposition to end more than a decade of political deadlock.

Razali Ismail is the man widely credited as the architect of ground-breaking talks that began last year in secret between Burma's ruling generals and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

He arrived in Rangoon Tuesday for his sixth visit to the country since being appointed special U.N. envoy.

Mr. Razali has disclosed very little about the negotiations in the past 13 months, suggesting that trust between the two sides can only be built in the absence of public scrutiny and pressures.

But there have been signs of progress and a marked lessening of antagonism. Since the dialogue began in October 2000, the Burmese government has released almost 200 political prisoners, most from the opposition National League for Democracy. It has allowed the party to re-open more than two dozen offices and has ceased verbal attacks on NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At the same time, Aung San Suu Kyi remains under virtual house arrest, this latest time for 15 months. And there has been no indication that the military government, rumored to be seriously divided, is willing to commit to a gradual transition to democracy.

The current government came to power in 1988 after suppressing pro-democracy demonstrations. And it has refused to relinquish the reins of government despite losing overwhelmingly to the NLD in 1990 general elections.