/ 25 October 2007

Aung San Suu Kyi holds talks with Burma junta

Burma’s detained democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is to hold surprise talks with a minister from the ruling junta today, according to sources in Burma.

Residents in Rangoon, where Aung San Suu Kyi is being held under house arrest, told the Associated Press that she had left her home to meet officials.

Three cars arrived at the house within the last few hours and drove her to a government guesthouse for talks with new minister Aung Kyi, sources said.

Earlier this month Aung Kyi was appointed as liaison minister in charge of relations with opposition groups. He was also appointed labour minister on Wednesday.

The appointment followed the UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari’s four-day visit to Burma, in which he urged the junta to begin talks with the opposition leaders.

Burma’s military leader, General Than Shwe, offered to meet Aung San Suu Kyi only if she opposed sanctions against Burma and dropped her ”confrontational” stance. Her party, the National League for Democracy, rejected such terms.

Protests took place across the world yesterday to mark the 12 cumulative years that Aung San Suu Kyi has spent in detention. She was first arrested in 1989. A year later her party won a landslide election victory but the junta refused to hand over power.

Gambari is due to return to Burma earlier than planned in an attempt to kickstart talks.

The junta has also agreed to a visit by the UN human rights investigator Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who had been barred from country since 2003.

The junta has claimed that only 10 people were killed in last month’s protests, but diplomats and dissidents claim the toll is much higher.

Gambari is on a tour of Asia in an attempt to shore up support for his mission.

On Wednesday in a letter to the Guardian, female Nobel Peace laureates urged the UN to take decisive action to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace prize herself in 1991.

”The detention of Aung San Suu Kyi is the most visible manifestation of the regime’s brutality but it is only the tip of the iceberg,” the letter said. – Guardian Unlimited Â