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UN Discussing Deadline For Burmese Junta To Show Political Progress - 2001-11-27

The United Nations special envoy to Burma says he wants to see a roadmap for political transition in place by next year. It is the first time Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail has spoken of a timetable for ending the political stalemate in Burma.

Whatever progress has been made in negotiations between Burma's democratic opposition and the military government is largely attributed to Mr. Razali's persistence.

Since he revealed the existence of the dialogue more than one year ago, both sides pledged to keep the specifics of their discussions secret. However, now diplomatic and other sources say the talks appear to be stalled.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy, or NLD, as well as ethnic minority political parties, are frustrated that negotiations have not moved beyond confidence-building.

The military, for its part, appears reluctant to intensify the talks. It has released 200 or so political prisoners. But the NLD says at least 800 remain behind bars.

However, both sides are reported to have confidence in Mr. Razali, and on the first day of his latest visit, he signaled his determination to see the process move forward. A leader of one of Burma's key ethnic groups who met Mr. Razali quotes the diplomat as saying he wants to see a political roadmap in place by next year.

Speaking with VOA's Burmese Service, Khun Tun Oo, of the Shan National League for Democracy, said he and other ethnic leaders also discussed the question of the 1990 election with Mr. Razali. The NLD won that election overwhelmingly, but Burma's military ignored the result.

Whether the election result is recognized and implemented as part of any transitional arrangement, or set aside, is one of the most important issues in the negotiations.

Recent reports quoting diplomatic sources said Mr. Razali was bringing with him specific recommendations as part of an emerging plan that could lead to a transitional government.

Incentives are likely to be emphasized in talks with military government leaders, including possible resumed large-scale international financial aid, cut off since the military crackdown on democracy demonstrations in 1988. This is Mr. Razali's sixth visit to Rangoon since April 2000, when he assumed responsibility for promoting democratic change and human rights in Burma under a mandate from UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.