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US Disappointed with Lack of Progress in Burma - 2002-11-09

The United States is expressing disappointment over the lack of progress in the Burmese military government's promised democracy dialogue with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. U.N. Special Envoy for Burma Razali Ismail is to begin his ninth mission to the Southeast Asian country next week.

A written statement issued here in advance of Ambassador Razali's mission makes clear U.S. impatience with the pace of political dialogue in Burma.

Noting that six months have passed since the release of Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States would have expected that dialogue between her and the military leadership would be "well under way by now."

However, Mr. Boucher said there are as yet "no signs" of the talks he said are "critical to the future of Burma." He also said many political prisoners remain in detention, and that Burmese citizens have recently been arrested and given long prison terms for expressing their political views.

Despite this, Mr. Boucher said the United States welcomes the U.N. envoy's return to Burma and looks forward in particular to his planned meetings with Burmese senior general Than Shwe.

The spokesman said talks at this level are "essential" to moving forward and maintaining international confidence in the reconciliation process. He said the United States reiterates its call for "substantive dialogue" between the military regime and democratic opposition, and for the unconditional release of remaining political prisoners.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Laureate, was released last May after 12 years under varying degrees of house arrest.

The United States has been a persistent critic of the Burmese military leadership and its treatment of Aung San Suu Kyi. Her opposition party, the National League for Democracy, won an overwhelming victory in 1990 parliamentary elections which was never recognized by the generals.