Wed, Nov 07, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Junta summons foreign diplomats

MYSTERY MEETING Security outside Aung San Suu Kyi's home has been relaxed, indicating Myanmar's leaders may allow UN diplomat Gambari to visit her


Myanmar's military junta summoned foreign diplomats to its new remote capital to meet with the UN envoy attempting to end the country's political crisis and promote democratic reform, diplomats said yesterday.

The diplomats were asked to meet tomorrow with envoy Ibrahim Gambari in Naypyitaw, where he has been holding talks with Cabinet ministers but has yet to meet with powerful junta leader Senior General Than Shwe.

The agenda for the meeting was not known, said the diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of protocol. There had been speculation Gambari would return to Yangon yesterday to meet with detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Gambari met with both Than Shwe and Suu Kyi when he last visited early last month, following the junta's bloody Sept. 26-27 crackdown on anti-government protests.

On Monday, he had talks with Foreign Minister Nyan Win and with representatives of the Red Cross and the country's ethnic minority groups in Naypyitaw, the new capital, officials and the UN said.

Diplomats said they hoped Gambari would also visit Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city. An easing of security outside her Yangon home, where she is under house arrest, indicated such a visit would be allowed.

But a meeting with Than Shwe was far from certain because of a rift between the UN and Myanmar's military government.

On Friday, the day before Gambari's arrival, the junta announced it would expel the top UN official in the country, resident coordinator Charles Petrie.

It accused Petrie of going beyond his duties by issuing a statement criticizing the generals' failure to meet the economic and humanitarian needs of the people, and by saying this was the cause of September's protests.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the US wanted Gambari to be allowed to "convey his message directly to all the parties he wishes to see" so he could tell Myanmar's leaders of "the need for them to change their policies."

The military stamped out the peaceful demonstrations in late September by firing on the protesters. Authorities said 10 people were killed, but diplomats and dissidents said the death toll was much higher. Thousands of people were detained.

There have been only two open demonstrations since then. On Saturday, about 50 Buddhist monks dispersed on orders of riot police and soldiers after a peaceful march through the ruby mining town of Mogok, residents said.

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