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Myanmar President Urges Progress on Rebel Cease-fire

Myanmar President Thein Sein, rear right, shakes hands with leaders of armed ethnic groups during a meeting for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) between representatives of the Myanmar government and leaders of armed ethnic groups in Naypyidaw, Mya

Myanmar President Thein Sein has met with ethnic rebel negotiators, urging them to sign a nationwide cease-fire deal before the country's November general election.

Wednesday's meeting in the administrative capital, Naypyidaw, is the first public appearance by the president since the official start of campaigning for the November 8 polls.

The ex-army general met with representatives of five of the more than a dozen rebel groups that have been participating in the negotiations for nearly two years.

He said a nationwide cease-fire deal is mandatory if the country wants to see further democratic reforms.

"Without having peace with any armed ethnic groups, I would like to strongly say that the transition towards democracy is not working very well for our country," he said. "So I would like to invite all for discussions to attain peace nationwide with good will. And I strongly hope that today's meeting can negotiate for the signing of a peace treaty before the end of September."

The government and rebel groups disagree over exactly who should sign the cease-fire. Many rebels want the inclusion of several groups not recognized by, and that are still fighting, the government.

Reaching a conclusion in the talks would represent a significant political victory for Thein Sein. He is not running in the election but still could be selected as president by lawmakers.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi this month called on rebel leaders not to rush into a hasty deal, saying the most important issue was to ensure future stability.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has seen more than 65 years of clashes between the government and rebel groups trying to secure autonomy in many border regions.