YANGON, Oct 4 (Reuters) Despite gradually easing its iron grip on Myanmar's main city today, the junta continued to round up scores of people and grill hundreds more arrested during and after a ruthless crackdown on pro-democracy marches.
In the first official remarks since a visit by UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari this week, junta chief Than Shwe said he would talk to detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi if she abandoned her ''obstructive measures'' and support for sanctions.
Than Shwe told Gambari that Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for 12 of the last 18 years, was ''confrontational'' and for ''utter devastation'', state television said without explaining what the last accusation meant.
He told Gambari that if Suu Kyi ''announces publicly she has given up these four things, he would hold direct talks'' with her, it said.
Gambari was dispatched to Myanmar to persuade the generals to end their ruthless crackdown on protests and talk to Suu Kyi, but reports of verbal and physical abuse suggest Than Shwe is paying scant regard to his calls for restraint.
''That is one of the top concerns of the international community,'' said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, due to attend a meeting of the 15-member Security Council on Friday to discuss the crackdown in a country now under military rule for an unbroken 45 years.
JAILED FOR CLAPPING A relative of three women released said detainees were being divided into four categories: passers-by, those who watched, those who clapped and those who joined in.
''They're looking for the people who led the demonstrations.
The people clapping will only get a minimal punishment -- maybe two to five years,'' said Win Min, who fled to Thailand during a crackdown on a student-led uprising in 1988.
Leaders could be looking at up to 20 years behind bars, he said.
People in central Yangon's Kamayut district said soldiers had arrested scores of people yesterday night for trying to impede a raid on the Aung Nyay Tharzi monastery a few days earlier and giving protection to fleeing Buddhist monks.
Another 70 young monks rounded up in other swoops across the city a week ago were freed overnight from a government technical institute, complementing 80 monks and 149 women believed to be nuns released yesterday.
One freed monk, who did not want his name revealed, said some had been beaten when they refused to answer questions about their identity, birthplace, parents and involvement in the protests, the biggest challenge to the junta in nearly 20 years.
''The food and living conditions were horrible,'' the monk, from Yangon's Pyinya Yamika Maha (A) monastery told Reuters.
Among those detained in the middle of the night yesterday was a Myanmar UN staff member and her two relatives. They were released, along with her driver, on Thursday, a U.N. source said.
The evening state news broadcast said that since the crackdown on peaceful protests led by monks began last week, 2,093 people had been arrested and 692 released after interrogators deemed them innocent.
INDIA PROTEST The junta's crackdown has provoked scores of protests around the world and today hundreds of Buddhist monks in yellow robes marched in India chanting hymns, and waving placards that read ''Stop Killing'' and ''No violence against democracy.'' Gambari was to brief Ban after arriving in New York today in the midst of international outrage at the use of soldiers against peaceful columns of Buddhist monks and civilians demanding an end to military rule.
Official media say 10 people were killed, including a Japanese video journalist, although Western governments say the final toll is likely to be far higher.
The body of 50-year-old Kenji Nagai, shot dead near Yangon's Sule Pagoda, returned home today for an autopsy whose results could lead to Tokyo making good on a threat to scale back economic assistance to Myanmar, one of Asia's poorest countries.
Fears of a repeat of 1988, when the army killed an estimated 3,000 people in a crackdown lasting several months, were not realised, but even China, the junta's closest ally, made a rare public call for restraint.
China praised Gambari's mission -- which Western diplomats said Beijing helped facilitate -- saying it gave his efforts a ''positive appraisal''.
REUTERS AM KP2053