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UN Envoy Urges Support for Burma's National Election Plan - 2003-10-01

U.N. Razali Ismail, on a three-day mission to Burma, is telling the country's ethnic leaders to back the military government's plan for national elections. Mr. Razali is urging these leaders to support democracy measures as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urges Burma to make the full transition by 2006. U.N. special envoy to Burma Razali Ismail met with several of the country's ethnic political parties to ask them to support the military's recently announced plan to national elections and a new constitution.

Mr. Razali endorsed the plan when announced by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in late August. The government, known as the State Peace and Development Council, has not said when it would be implemented. Mr. Razali is also meeting Prime Minister Khin Nyunt and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest and recovering from recent surgery.

The envoy, on his 11th visit to Burma, is seeking freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi and new talks between the military government and Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

His visit coincides with a statement from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is pressing for political dialogue and a democratic transition by 2006.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been detained since a May 30 clash between National League for Democracy supporters and pro-government supporters in northern Burma. The military government says Aung San Suu Kyi is being held for her own protection, but does not say when she will be freed.

A director with the Network for Democratic Development in Burma, Naing Aung, says Aung San Suu Kyi's release would be just one step toward reconciliation.

"To achieve national reconciliation, to achieve peace, to achieve democracy I think that it's not only the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and leaders, but there should be a broader process," he said.

Mr. Naing Aung wants Mr. Razali to press the military government to allow political parties to operate freely.

"Mr. Razali should convince the SPDC to release the leaders of the opposition - especially Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD executive committee members and then allow the political parties to move [about] freely," he said.

Burma is under intense pressure to free Aung San Suu Kyi before the meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations, of which Burma is a member, on October 7. Unless Mr. Razali achieves a breakthrough this week, the political impasse in Burma may dominate the agenda at the ASEAN summit.