UN says Gambari to visit Myanmar in early November

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UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 (Reuters) Myanmar's ruling junta has agreed to bring forward a visit by UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari, who now expects to go there in the first week of November, a U.N.

spokeswoman said today.

Gambari will travel to Myanmar directly from the region, which he is currently touring to discuss the crisis following the Myanmar junta's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, spokeswoman Michele Montas told a news briefing.

The purpose of his visit would be ''to kick-start a dialogue (by Myanmar's government) with the opposition,'' Montas said.

Many opposition figures, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi, are currently detained.

Exact dates have yet to be arranged, Montas said. Myanmar had earlier agreed to a visit in mid-November by Gambari, who previously visited the country three weeks ago at the height of the crisis. Had the junta insisted on that timetable, Gambari would have returned to New York first.

Gambari would now be ''continuing his consultations with key regional countries in the interim,'' Montas said.

The UN envoy has already visited Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and India and is continuing on to China and Japan.

It was the second conciliatory gesture in as many days by the junta. yesterday, the United Nations said the generals had agreed to let in U.N. human rights expert Paulo Sergio Pinheiro after banning him for four years. Pinheiro too expects to go to Myanmar in early November.

In Asia, Gambari has been trying to persuade sometimes reluctant neighbors of Myanmar to take a tougher line against the junta.

During his latest stop in India, Delhi promised to help push Myanmar towards democracy but stopped short of committing to concrete action.

Montas said Gambari was ''urging India and other regional countries to actively encourage the government of Myanmar to continue to cooperate with the (UN) secretary-general's good offices efforts, including by addressing continuing human rights concern''.

REUTERS GL PM2310

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