Myanmar won’t let U.N. chief see opposition leader


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ended a mission to Myanmar on Saturday saying he was “deeply disappointed” that the isolated nation’s top military ruler denied him a visit to jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In two days of rare talks with Senior Gen. Than Shwe, the U.N. chief urged the reclusive 76-year-old autocrat to release Suu Kyi and other political prisoners and embark on democratic reforms ahead of elections scheduled for next year.

But their meetings Friday and Saturday in Naypyitaw, the junta’s remote administrative capital, left Ban saying that his diplomatic gambit had produced no immediate results and amounted to “a setback to the international community’s efforts to provide a helping hand to Myanmar.”

Suu Kyi has been detained by the ruling generals for nearly 14 of the past 20 years and is now on trial charged with violating her house arrest. The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate faces five years in prison if convicted in a trial that has sparked global outrage.

Still, the world’s top diplomat disputed the notion he was returning empty-handed or had handed the junta an opportunity to appear as if it was engaging more with the outside world without having to change.

He suggested the trip may have planted seeds that could blossom later, when Than Shwe no longer believes it will appear as if he were acting under pressure. And he said Than Shwe expressed a commitment to hold credible elections sometime in 2010.

StarTribune.com

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