UN envoy on Myanmar wants to return by year end

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HANOI, Nov 26 (Reuters) UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari said today he wanted to return to Myanmar by the end of the year as part of efforts to secure the release of political prisoners and prod the country toward democracy ''I sincerely hope I will be able to go before the end of the year because there are a number of issues left on the table that I want to follow up,'' Gambari told a news conference during a visit to Vietnam.

Gambari, who arrived in Hanoi on Friday and is also going to Cambodia and Laos, said that when he returned to Myanmar he wanted to meet opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and newly appointed members of a committee drafting a new constitution.

Reports of further arrests in Myanmar ''were unfortunate'' and ran counter to the military government's announcement of releases of prisoners following its violent suppression of protesters in September, he said.

''I would hope that it will stop,'' he added.

Gambari said he was delivering a written message from the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung ''on the important role of ASEAN countries, neighbouring countries and this country in particular''.

Gambari said he believed Vietnam was ''listened to by Myanmar as among the closest ASEAN members and it has its own history of transition dealing with the international community''.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed a charter last week that calls for promotion of democracy and human rights, but it has come under fire over Myanmar after the crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

''What happens in Myanmar positively will affect neighbouring countries, ASEAN and the international community,'' Gambari said.

''That is why it is important to work for a prosperous, peaceful, democratic Myanmar with full respect for human rights.''.

In January, Vietnam will take a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council and potentially have to vote on sensitive diplomatic issues regarding allies such as Myanmar and North Korea.


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