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UN envoy meets Myanmar junta go-between

Written by: Staff

YANGON, Nov 4 (Reuters) UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari met the Myanmar junta's go-between with detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi today, during a mission for reform complicated by the generals' move to kick out the UN's top resident diplomat.

Gambari, who flew to the new capital, Naypyidaw, shortly after landing in Yangon on Saturday, had talks with General Aung Kyi, appointed liaison minister after the UN envoy's last visit in September, and Foreign Affairs Minister Nyan Win.

Gambari ''expects that these initial steps will lead to early initiation of dialogue aimed at accelerating inclusive national reconciliation, the restoration of democracy and the full respect for human rights,'' the UN office in Yangon said in a statement.

There were no further details of the meeting with Aung Kyi, a significant figure in the military government who met Suu Kyi for 75 minutes last week.

''Mr. Gambari is scheduled to meet the Prime Minister and other senior members of the government and leadership as well as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other relevant interlocutors,'' the statement said.

There has been no sign of any willingness by the junta to deviate from its own ''seven-step path to democracy'' which, so far, has resulted only in the outlines of a constitution that would enshrine military power.

The junta greeted Gambari with state-sponsored rallies calling for ''respect'' from the United Nations following its decision not to renew the visa of its country chief, Charles Petrie, who did not go to Nyapyidaw with Gambari.

Petrie was there on Friday for a dressing down for issuing a statement linking Myanmar's dire economic straits to September protests that triggered a crackdown in which official media say 10 people were killed. Diplomats say many more probably died.

On departure, Petrie was given a letter saying the government would not renew his credentials, due to expire soon, to the country, Asia's rice bowl on independence in 1948 and now one of the region's poorest.

UN BACKS PETRIE ''We Respect the UN, We Respect Gambari, Respect Myanmar,'' state television and newspapers quoted a slogan at one rally, one of many which people say they are forced to attend, held in the Mandalay area.

Government mouthpieces attacked the Petrie statement in Sunday editorials.

''The statement of the UN Country Team in Myanmar absolutely ignores Myanmar's prevailing conditions, and it is, indeed, merely a groundless one,'' the English-language New Light of Myanmar newspaper said.

Gambari stressed on arrival for his second visit since the monk-led protests were crushed and thousands of people arrested that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon stood behind Petrie.

''Mr Gambari conveyed the Secretary-General's support for the Country Team and the Resident Coordinator and the important work they continue to do to improve the socioeconomic and humanitarian situation,'' the UN office in Yangon said in a statement.

Singapore, chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, said it was disappointed by the move against Petrie.

The United States also condemned Petrie's apparent expulsion.

It was not clear how long Gambari would remain in Myanmar but a UN statement said on Saturday he would ''stay in Myanmar as long as necessary to accomplish his mission''.

A spokesman for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD), the main opposition party, said he had not been contacted by Myanmar Foreign Ministry officials who set Gambari's schedule and did not know whether NLD leaders could meet him.


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