Opposition rejects Burmese leader's negotiation offer

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The Independent Online

The party of the detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday dismissed the military junta's purported offer of talks, claiming its pre-set conditions would force her to admit to offences of which she was not guilty.

The country's senior general, Than Shwe, who was ultimately responsible for the violent repression of pro-democracy demonstrations last week, has said he will meet the head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) if she drops her support for international sanctions and abandons her "confrontational attitude". But Nyan Win, a spokesman for the NLD, said: "They are asking her to confess to offences that she has not committed."

The NLD's dismissal of the regime's conditions – which was supported by activists and campaigners outside Burma – came as the United Nations' special envoy briefed the Security Council about his talks earlier in the week with General Shwe. Ibrahim Gambari said he was cautiously optimistic of progress.

At the same time, the most senior US diplomat in Burma, Shari Villarosa, travelled to the jungle capital, Naypyidaw, for talks with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Maung Myint. The American embassy in Burma has been outspoken in its criticism of the regime and vocal in its support of dissidents and groups such as the NLD.

According to state-run television, General Shwe set out his conditions for talks with Ms Suu Kyi when he met Mr Gambari on Tuesday. He reportedly demanded that she must abandon "confrontation", give up "obstructive measures" and her support for sanctions.

Western activists said General Shwe had been making such demands since 1992. "We have been here before," said Mark Farmaner, of the Burma Campaign UK. "The regime is still refusing to enter into genuine dialogue. Gambari's mission has failed. We have to break out of this cycle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon must go to Burma and deliver a strong message to the regime that further delay is unacceptable."

The UN leader is unlikely to undertake such a mission without a resolution from the Security Council, but that would be blocked by Burma's most important trading partner, China. Yesterday, Beijing again stated that the repression of pro-democracy protests in Burma did not demand international action. China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, said: "There are problems there but these problems, we still believe, are basically internal. No international-imposed solution can help the situation. We want the government there to handle this issue."

Campaigners believe as many as 200 people were killed by Burmese troops as they moved to crush the street protests led by Buddhist monks. The junta, however, claims only 10 people were killed.

In New York yesterday, Mr Gambari told the UN Security Council he was "cautiously encouraged" that the Burmese regime was offering talks. "This is an hour of historic opportunity for Myanmar," he said. "This is a potentially welcome development which calls for maximum flexibility on all sides."

His comments came shortly after Ban Ki-moon, speaking in the Security Council chamber, urged Burma's rulers to "take bold actions towards democratisation and respect for human rights".

Burmese state television broadcast rare footage of Ms Suu Kyi yesterday for the first time in four years. The junta claimed it had freed hundreds of detained monks and restored internet access – steps which appeared aimed at appeasing world opinion. The regime admitted its troops raided 18 monasteries and jailed more than 700 monks as an estimated 2,000 people were rounded up last week.

However, it insisted that only 109 monks remained in custody.