Myanmar's detained Suu Kyi meets junta minister

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YANGON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - Myanmar's detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met a senior junta official today, state media said, but it was not known what they discussed.

MRTV showed 30 seconds of footage from the third meeting between the Nobel laureate and ruling junta member Aung Kyi since he was appointed as a go-between after September's crackdown on pro-democracy protests triggered world outrage.

''We heard about the meeting between U Aung Kyi and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi this afternoon,'' said Nyan Win, a spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.

He did not know the substance of Suu Kyi's one-hour meeting with the liaison minister at a state guesthouse, but believed it might have focused on the junta's preconditions for direct talks between Suu Kyi and regime leader Senior General Than Shwe.

Than Shwe has offered direct negotiations if Suu Kyi abandons confrontation and her support for sanctions against the military which has ruled the former Burma for 45 years.

Some observers said the meeting might have been timed to deflect criticism at this week's annual get-together of the 10-nation Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Summit host Singapore expressed its ''revulsion'' shortly after the army crackdown in which the junta says 15 people were killed, but the grouping has resisted calls to impose sanctions.

Myanmar Prime Minister Thein Sein was due to brief his ASEAN counterparts on Monday for the first time since the monk-led protests were crushed and nearly 3,000 people arrested. The regime says all but 91 have been freed.

''I just think it's a face-saving measure for the prime minister at the summit,'' a veteran Yangon politician said.

Suu Kyi, who has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house arrest, has said her previous meetings with Aung Kyi were constructive and she was ready to work with the military to establish proper negotiations.

But critics say the regime is sending mixed signals.

They point to Than Shwe's comments reported by state media on Saturday that the only path to political reform is via the junta's own ''roadmap to democracy'', suggesting that any talks will have to take place within that framework.

Western governments have dismissed the roadmap as a blue-print for the army legitimising its grip on power.

Under an outline for a new charter, the head of the army will be the most powerful person in the country, with the right to appoint key cabinet figures and suspend the constitution in the event of an emergency that he defines.

REUTERS RSA RN2320

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