02/02/2009, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Aung San Suu Kyi meets with UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari

The pro-democracy leader leaves house arrest for an hour-long talk with the representative of the United Nations. Suu Kyi stresses that the visit of the UN secretary general is "conditioned" on the liberation of political prisoners. From the United Nations, a plan of economic assistance in exchange for concessions on matters of democracy and human rights.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) - UN special envoy for Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari has met with Aung San Suu Kyi. Confirmation comes from government sources, according to which the conversation took place this morning at 10:15 local time, in a government building, and lasted for one hour. During the meeting, Suu Kyi requested as a "precondition" for any visit of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to Myanmar "the release of all political prisoners" held in the country's prisons.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the pro-democracy movement in the former Burma, and recipient of the Nobel peace prize in 1991, has spent 13 of the last 19 years under house arrest. Last August, Suu Kyi refused a meeting with the UN special envoy because of the meager results obtained with the military junta in matters of democracy and human rights in Myanmar.

Among the points on the agenda for Ibrahim Gambari - who on January 31 met with Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win - are: the liberation of the more than 2,000 political prisoners held in the Burmese prisons, some of whom have been sentenced to between 60 and 100 years in prison; the implementation of economic reforms in support of the population; the resumption of dialogue between the ruling military junta and opposition leader Suu Kyi.

This was the seventh official visit of the UN special representative to the Asian country: he met with the opposition leader and other leading representatives of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party in Myanmar. This afternoon, Gambari is scheduled to go to Labutta, in the area of the Irrawaddy delta in the southwest part of the country, devastated in May of 2008 by the cyclone Nargis. But it has not yet been confirmed, and seems unlikely, that the United Nations representative would meet with the leader of the military dictatorship, General Than Shwe.

Gambari's diplomatic mission is not prompting much hope among members of the opposition in Myanmar: "After the last six visits to Burma by the special envoy, we did not see any concrete results for political development in the country," says NLD spokesman Win Naing. "But we hope there may be a solution to start a genuine dialogue on this trip."

In order to obtain greater military concessions, the UN envoy has created a plan of incentives and economic aid approved personally by the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon.The incentives are earmarked for the people impacted by the passage of cyclone Nargis, without violating the embargo imposed by the European Union and the United States on the military junta in power. The plan is for a two-year program - from January of 2009 to December of 2011 - aimed at reviving the economy, as well as health and security among the population, with overall investment of between 400 and 500 million U.S. dollars per year. On the condition, stressed by the United Nations, that the military junta provide guarantees on democracy and human rights in the country.

In 2010, political elections are scheduled in Myanmar: in order to cement its power, the junta has already begun the process of revising the constitution, according to which 25% of seats in parliament would be reserved for members of the military.

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