03/10/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR
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Gambari continues his efforts of political reconciliation in Myanmar

The UN envoy to Myanmar, who arrived in the country almost a week ago, has suffered his first defeats. The junta refuses to co-operate in the democratisation process, but Gambari meets other ministers.

Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The United Nations' special envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, continued his meetings in Myanmar despite the junta's rejection and Information Minister Brigadier General Kyaw Hsan’s charges against him last week. Relations are decidedly cool and in yesterday’s meetings with the ministers of health and national planning as well as the chairman of the civil service board nothing was said about the hot issues of the referendum and the constitution.

The bone of contention was the United Nations’ suggestions of letting independent observers monitor the upcoming national referendum on the new constitution.

Kyaw Hsan said it would be "impossible" to rewrite the draft constitution, which will be submitted to a referendum in May.

Asked by Gambari to consider releasing political prisoners—estimated by the United Nations and human rights groups to total more than 1,100—he said Burma had no political prisoners and that Suu Kyi was detained because she tried to disrupt the country's stability.

Harsh words against the military junta came from the Philippines where President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo condemned the junta's rejection of independent poll monitors, calling it "a sad day for democracy and our region."

“Outside observers are not a threat to any nation's sovereignty,” she said in a statement issued on Sunday in Manila. “Rather, the participation of outside election observers is a sign of strength. These observers help show the world the credibility of the election process itself as we had long done in the Philippines.”

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