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UN Envoy Wraps Up Burma Visit - 2002-11-15

A United Nations special envoy is wrapping up a five-day visit to Burma aimed at reviving stalled talks with pro-democracy leaders. Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail for the first time has met with Burma's senior leader Than Shwe, but apparently did not see pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Officials of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, or NLD, say U.N. envoy Razali Ismail briefed them about his efforts to speed up their reconciliation talks with the Burmese government.

Party spokesman U Lwin said Mr. Razali told them he put forth proposals to Senior General Than Shwe, whom he met for the first time. But he says the Burmese leader responded by saying his government was already doing its utmost for the Burmese people. U Lwin indicated little progress was reported. "Progress? No. No progress," he said. "He had a chance of meeting Than Shwe (for) the first time, but he didn't get the proper answer from him. That might be rather disappointing."

Mr. Razali told reporters that his meeting with General Than Shwe and with the second and third ranking members of the junta, Generals Maung Aye and Khin Nyunt, was important, but he did not offer details.

NLD spokesman U Lwin said Mr. Razali intended to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, who is traveling in northern Shan state, but that he decided not to. He was planning to go to Shan state to meet her, but he had to cancel, finally," he said.

The spokesman said Mr. Razali did not give a reason for the cancellation.

He said the pro-democracy leader has received a warm welcome in Shan state and indicated this is part of the party's efforts to rebuild after a decade of suspended activities. "That is a normal visit during these days, all over the country. Nothing special, but the same reason like the previous trips to Mandalay Division, and Mon State, Pegu state, and so on," he said.

Mr. Razali has visited Burma nine times over the past two years, seeking to launch a dialogue to build a civilian democracy. The Burmese authorities have allowed the NLD to resume political activities and have released more than 600 political prisoners. But the talks have not progressed beyond the confidence-building stage.

Western governments are urging Burmese authorities to speed up the talks and say they will maintain economic sanctions against Burma until there is more progress toward political reform.