UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today he was "deeply disappointed" that military-ruled Myanmar's top general had rejected his request to meet with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Ban, who was made to wait overnight for the decision, said junta supremo Than Shwe's reason for the denial was because Suu Kyi was on trial and he did not want to be seen to interfere with the judicial process.
"I'm deeply disappointed," Ban told reporters after his 30-minute meeting with the regime's reclusive 76-year-old leader.
"I'm very sorry to report to you that this is not possible."
Ban requested the visit during a rare meeting yesterday with Than Shwe, but he left the two-hour session with no clear answer.
Suu Kyi, who has spearheaded the campaign for democracy for two decades in the former Burma, is currently on trial for breaching terms of her house arrest by allowing an American intruder to stay at her home on May 4.
Critics have dismissed her hearing as a show trial and an attempt by the generals to keep her out of multi-party elections to be held next year.
Suu Kyi's trial was adjourned yesterday until July 10 because of a clerical error by the court, according to her lawyer.
The secretary-general, one of the few top world figures the Myanmar supremo is willing to meet, also presented Than Shwe with a number of proposals to help the development of democracy.
He said those proposals included the release of the more than 2,000 political prisoners ahead of next year's election, opening of real dialogue between the government and opposition, and creating conditions conducive to free and fair elections.
It was not immediately known if Than Shwe agreed to all of Ban's requests.
However, yesterday Ban said Than Shwe had promised the election would not be rigged.
"I was assured that Myanmar's authorities will make sure that this election will be held in a fair and free and transparent manner," he said.
A UN official said they had urged the junta to accept international monitors.
In London, Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on the Myanmar authorities to halt Suu Kyi's trial and release her.
"I call on the regime to mark Ban Ki-moon's arrival by immediately halting her trial, which makes a mockery of justice, and ending her detention which undermines their credibility in the eyes of the world," he said in comments posted on the Huffington Post website.
Ban himself had described his current second visit to Myanmar as a "very tough mission" and made clear he was not expecting radical changes overnight in a country that has been ruled by a military junta for 47 years.
He had expressed concern his visit could be used by the ruling generals for propaganda purposes but he decided to go anyway, hoping his knack for quiet diplomacy would persuade the generals to compromise, as they did last year when Ban convinced them to lift humanitarian aid restrictions after Cyclone Nargis.
Analysts say Ban may have been given some indication by the generals, or by UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari after his trip last week, that his visit might bring some kind of positive result.
The secretary-general is also expected to give a speech in Yangon this afternoon, in which he will outline his vision for a democratic Myanmar.
UN officials said they expected some 500 people would attend the speech - among them employees of local and international non-government organisations, diplomats, opposition politicians and government officials.Reuse content