Burmese minister holds talks with Suu Kyi

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Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi held a rare meeting with a minister from the ruling junta today, a government source said, a week after she offered to work for withdrawal of sanctions on the country.

The detained Nobel laureate met Aung Kyi, the junta's Labour Minister assigned two years ago to act as a liaison between Suu Kyi and the ruling generals, at Yangon's Insein Prison.

"The meeting lasted about 50 minutes, but I don't know what was discussed," an official from the Home Ministry, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

It was initially unclear about where the impromptu talks took place, and Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party said it was not told in advance.

Suu Kyi last week made a formal offer to the regime to help negotiate with Western nations to lift sanctions on the country, which critics say have been largely ineffective.

The United States on Tuesday held talks with representatives of the Burmese government but emphasised that the lifting of sanctions would be a mistake.

Aung Kyi, who is also the junta's Relations Minister, has met with Suu Kyi on six previous occasions, the last time in January 2008.

The meeting came a day after a Yangon court upheld a guilty verdict on Suu Kyi for a security breach committed in May, meaning she will remain under house until after next year's elections, the first since 1990.

NLD spokesman Nyan Win said it was likely Suu Kyi and Aung Kyi discussed the offer made by the Nobel Peace Prize winner in a letter to junta supremo Than Shwe last week.

"We don't yet know exactly what was discussed, but we welcome this dialogue," he told Reuters, adding that a Home Ministry official he met with yesterday did not tell him a meeting was being planned.

Suu Kyi, 64, the daughter of the late Burmese independence hero Aung San, has been in detention for 14 of the last 20 years, mostly held at her home next to the Inya lake.

Critics say her latest stint of house arrest, for allowing an American intruder to stay for two nights at her home, was a ploy to minimise her threat and keep her away from next year's polls.

Analysts say the vote, the first in Burma in two decades, will likely entrench nearly 50 years of army rule, with key ministries remaining under military control and parliament likely to be dominated by retired generals and junta cronies.

In a rare public comment, Burma's reclusive Foreign Minister Nyan Win said the junta was yet to decide on when the long-awaited and widely dismissed polls will take place.

"Our government will release a possible date later," he told reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the Mekong-Japan Foreign Ministers meeting in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

"Will it be free and fair or not, so far, nobody can judge. After the election will be held you can judge it if that is free and fair or not," he added when asked if the polls would be legitimate.

In a joint statement released during the meeting of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan and Myanmar, the ministers said they "believed the upcoming general elections would be transparent, democratic and inclusive", and commended Myanmar for its recent release of more than 7,000 prisoners.