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UN Envoy Meets with Aung San Suu Kyi - 2003-10-02

U.N. envoy Razali Ismail met with Burma's senior general on the final day of a three-day visit in an effort to secure the release of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi. Mr. Razali had earlier met with Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence as well as other supporters of her National League for Democracy Party.

Razali Ismail, on a mission to have all restrictions on opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi lifted, said he had held "useful" talks with the military government's senior general Than Shwe.

The meeting capped a round of talks by Mr. Razali, who has been dispatched by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to press Burma's government, the State Peace and Development Council, to restart dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi. Wednesday, Mr. Razali held talks with Burma's recently appointed Prime Minister, Khin Nyunt. Later that day, he met for 90 minutes with Aung San Suu Kyi at her residence.

Since late 2000, Mr. Razali has been trying to mediate reconciliation talks between the opposition and the government. But, the effort came to a halt May 30 when government supporters attacked Aung San Suu Kyi's convoy in northern Burma.

Mr. Razali is urging ethnic leaders from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy to support a reconciliation plan recently announced by Prime Minister Khin Nyunt.

The plan calls for steps to national elections and the drafting of a new constitution. Burma's last constitutional convention was suspended in 1996 after a boycott by the NLD.

Aung Zaw, editor of the Thai-based independent newspaper, The Irrawaddy, says Mr. Razali appears to be looking to Khin Nyunt's plan as a way to break through the current political stalemate.

"My impression is that yesterday [Wednesday], after he talked to ethnic leaders in Rangoon, he seems to be quite closer to the Khin Nyunt 'road map' plan asking ethnic leaders to support it along the way together with NLD and other ethnic groups," he said.

But Aung Zaw says her party members are reluctant to return to the draft constitution and instead are looking to redraw a new one, a move unlikely to be supported by the Rangoon government.

Several members the Association of South East Asian Nations, due to meet at a summit of leaders in Bali next week, have pressed the Rangoon government to free Aung San Suu Kyi. Burma - a member of ASEAN since 1997 - has faced widespread criticism over her detention from fellow ASEAN members.