Top US diplomat to visit Burma

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A top US official will make a second visit to Burma on Sunday to pursue Washington's new policy of engagement, a diplomat said, ahead of controversial elections being prepared by the country's military regime.

The trip by Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, comes days after the formal disbanding of the main opposition party led by detained Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi has accused the ruling junta of trying to engineer the upcoming elections to ensure it retains its half-century-long grip on power.

Campbell, on his second visit in six months, will fly to Burma's administrative capital of Naypyitaw tomorrow to continue talks with senior officials, according to the diplomat who was not authorized to speak to the press and spoke on condition of anonymity.

A government official said Campbell is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Thein Sein, Foreign Minister Nyan Win and Information Minister Kyaw San. The official spoke on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Campbell also will meet on Monday with Suu Kyi, who has spent 14 of the last 20 years in detention, said her lawyer, Nyan Win.

"I welcome the visit of Mr. Kurt Campbell but I don't really understand what he expected to achieve from the visit," said Nyan Win, who also is a spokesman for Suu Kyi's now-dissolved National League for Democracy.

Suu Kyi's party was disbanded yesterday under the country's new election law after it refused to register for Burma's first elections in two decades, polls the opposition says will be a sham. The National League for Democracy won Burma's last election in 1990 but the army never allowed it to take power.

A faction within the NLD that disagreed with the boycott said yesterday they would form their own party called the National Democratic Force and participate in the elections.

A number of senior regime officials have recently shed their uniforms, with apparent intent to run for elections under a thinly disguised pro-military political party.

The Obama administration last year reversed the Bush administration's isolation of Burma in favor of dialogue with a country that has been ruled by the military since 1962.

Washington has said it will still maintain political and economic sanctions toward the junta until talks with Burma's generals result in change.