Myanmar names trusted fixer as Suu Kyi go-between

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YANGON, Oct 9 (Reuters) Myanmar's main opposition today gave a cautious welcome to the naming of the junta's main trouble-shooter as ''Minister of Relations'' to act as a go-between with detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

''It is a good sign. It is the way it should be,'' said Nyan Win, spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party which won a massive election landslide in 1990 only to be denied power by the generals ruling the former Burma.

''It shows they seem to have become a little more pragmatic,'' he said.

Although officially only a deputy labour minister, Aung Kyi, whose appointment as Suu Kyi's liaison officer was announced on state television last night, is a major player in the regime and will act as more than an errand boy, those who know him say.

''He's serious, he's senior and he's been sent in to difficult situations before to resolve them and trouble shoot,'' a former Yangon-based official of the International Labour Organization (ILO) said.

''He's not a stonewaller. He's someone who's sent in to fix problems, and he seems like a very good choice if you do want to have a credible dialogue,'' said the ILO official, who dealt with Aung Kyi directly in a bid to curb the use of forced labour.

After last month's protests against decades of military rule and deepening poverty, Senior General Than Shwe offered direct talks with Suu Kyi if she ended her ''confrontation'', support for sanctions and ''utter devastation'' -- a term not clarified.

However, critics said Than Shwe had no intention of ever talking to a woman he is known to loathe, and that the proposal was just a sop to the international outrage at the military's crackdown on marches by Buddhist monks and unarmed civilians.

Suu Kyi, a 62-year-old Nobel laureate remains under house arrest and incommunicado as she has been for nearly 12 of the last 18 years. An editorial in Monday's state newspapers suggested any release was a dim and distant prospect.

During her previous prolonged periods of isolation she has had other ''liaison officers'' whose mediation with the military came to nought.

Given the frequency with which optimists have been proved wrong, other analysts cautioned against seeing Aung Kyi's role as leading to talks on restoring any semblance of civilian authority in a country crippled by 45 years of army rule.

''It's too early to assess this gambit by the regime,'' said a retired professor in Yangon, who asked not to be named. ''It comes at a time of mounting pressure from the international community. We need to wait for further movement.'' REUTERS ARB DS1254

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