Thu, Jul 31, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Myanmar says it may release Suu Kyi

OCTOBER GOAL?There was some ambiguity, but Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said that Yangon's military junta will resolve the impasse before ASEAN meets

REUTERS , BANDUNG, INDONESIA

Myanmar's military junta will resolve an impasse over the detention of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi before a summit of Southeast Asian nations in October, Indonesia's foreign minister said yesterday.

But the comments by Hassan Wirajuda, made at a meeting of Asian and African officials in the West Java city of Bandung, appeared to catch his Myanmar counterpart Win Aung by surprise, who would only say Suu Kyi's arrest would not be prolonged.

Wirajuda told reporters Indonesia was also "heading" in the direction of mediating Myanmar's political crisis.

"The Myanmar side has told Indonesia they hope that before the ASEAN summit, this problem will be resolved. We have received a guarantee that the Aung San Suu Kyi case will be over before the ASEAN summit," Wirajuda said on the sidelines of the meeting.

The 58-year-old Nobel Peace laureate was arrested on May 30 after a clash between her supporters and pro-government groups, drawing international condemnation. This week the US imposed fresh economic sanctions on the troubled country.

Campaign group Amnesty International said yesterday that rights abuses in Myanmar had risen sharply since her detention.

Win Aung told reporters he did not know why Wirajuda made his comments. He did not appear irritated.

Asked if Suu Kyi would be freed by October, Win Aung said:

"I have trouble replying to that question. May I say there is only one thing that I will tell you, we don't have any intention to prolong that arrangement."

Wirajuda did not say if Myanmar's time frame was acceptable to the 10-member ASEAN, but made clear the organization could not ignore an issue that has stained its image.

ASEAN is one of few groups that accepts Myanmar as a member. Last month it gave Yangon an unprecedented rebuke over Suu Kyi.

Jakarta currently chairs ASEAN, which will hold its annual summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on October 7 to 8.

"Actually, if they can do it themselves, we will be very appreciative. But we know that there is a gap of perceptions here, and we need to tighten the contacts, including through mediation," Wirajuda said.

"[I'm] not playing an extra role in [my] capacity as ASEAN chairman. By talking to them we are heading that way [to mediation], but we cannot pinpoint the timing of that mediation."

On Tuesday, Win Aung said that Myanmar's ruling generals wanted to resolve the impasse themselves, although he would not say if he rejected outright any mediation offer.

Thailand has said Indonesia wanted to take a leading role in brokering fresh talks between the military junta and Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD).

Red Cross officials, allowed to meet Suu Kyi for the first time since her detention two months ago, said on Tuesday she was in good health and high spirits.

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