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UN envoy in Myanmar to push rights, democracy

Written by: Staff

YANGON, May 18 (Reuters) A top UN envoy began a rare visit to Myanmar today to press the military regime to improve human rights and move faster to restore democracy.

Ibrahim Gambari, the first senior UN official allowed into the former Burma in more than two years, is also expected to query Yangon's generals about attacks on ethnic Karen villages which have displaced thousands in recent months.

Gambari, the UN undersecretary-general for political affairs, has asked to meet detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi during his three-day visit, but it was not clear if the junta would allow it.

The Nigerian envoy, who did not speak to reporters after arriving in Yangon, was due to meet leaders of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) tomorrow at a government guest house a few miles from Suu Kyi's home, where she is under house arrest.

''All seven central executive committee members of the NLD are going to attend that meeting,'' NLD spokesman Nyan Win told Reuters.

''We have no idea if he will meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.'' The NLD won elections in 1990 but was denied power by the army, which has ruled the Southeast Asian nation since 1962.

Gambari is expected to brief foreign diplomats on Saturday after a possible meeting with junta leader Senior General Than Shwe in the regime's new capital north of Yangon.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said Gambari ''will convey a clear message that Myanmar's prospects for improved relations with the international community will depend on tangible progress in restoring democratic freedoms and full respect for human rights.'' MORE REUTERS PR ND1646

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