UN envoy meets Myanmar junta chief

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YANGON, Oct 2 (Reuters) UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari today met Myanmar junta boss Than Shwe in a bid to end a bloody crackdown on the biggest democracy protests in 20 years, a diplomat said.

There was no immediate word on whether Gambari had succeeded in persuading the bespectacled 74-year-old Senior General to withdraw troops from the streets or start talks with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, he said.

Than Shwe has so far appeared deaf to international calls for restraint, posting troops and police across Yangon and dispatching pro-junta gangs to raid homes in search of monks and dissidents on the run.

''They are going from apartment to apartment, shaking things inside, threatening the people. You have a climate of terror all over the city,'' a Bangkok-based Myanmar expert with many friends in Yangon said.

US charge d'affaires Shari Villarosa told Reuters by telephone from Yangon that arrests continued unabated.

''We have heard that arrests are continuing at night, like at two o'clock in the morning. We've heard it's the military. I don't know who is doing it, but people are going around in the middle of the night and taking people away,'' she said.

''People are terrified. This government keeps power through fear and intimidation and they are trying to intimidate people to stay off the streets.'' Gambari flew to Naypyidaw, new jungle capital of the country formerly known as Burma, to convey international outrage at last week's crushing of monk-led protests against decades of military rule and deepening poverty.

Apart from meeting three minister-generals and Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest, it was not clear how Gambari had spent his three days in Myanmar. Even UN officials were unable to explain his itinerary.

SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY HOPES The UN Security Council, which endorsed the former Nigerian foreign minister's emergency visit, is hoping the mission will kickstart some sort of dialogue between the junta -- the latest face of 45 years of military rule -- and Suu Kyi, the 62-year-old Nobel peace laureate.

Gambari was expected to have a second meeting with Suu Kyi, French UN Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert said, kindling hopes of some sort of ''shuttle diplomacy''.

''He should be able to set up a structure for further talks that will involve all aspects, especially on how to get all the parties in Myanmar to talk together,'' said Razali Ismail, Gambari's predecessor as UN point man on Myanmar.

''If he can get that agreement, it will be a significant achievement,'' Razali told Reuters.

State media say 10 people were killed when troops opened fire last week to clear protesters from the streets of Yangon, Myanmar's former capital and main city. Western governments say the toll is likely to be far higher.


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