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UN chief says Myanmar mission 'very difficult'

AFP, July 3, 2009

SINGAPORE: UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday he was embarking on a "very difficult" mission to Myanmar aimed at obtaining political results from the ruling military, but pledged to do his best.

Speaking to reporters in Singapore on the eve of his trip, Ban said he had not received any confirmation that he would be allowed to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's jailed pro-democracy icon and opposition leader.

He said he will raise the issue of meeting with the Nobel laureate when he meets with Myanmar junta leader Senior General Than Shwe in the remote administrative capital of Naypyidaw on Friday.

"I will try to meet with representatives of all registered political parties including Aung San Suu Kyi, that's my hope," he told journalists here after a dinner hosted in his honour by Singapore's Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong.

"But I have to raise this issue with the Senior General directly, in person. I have not received any firm confirmation, but through (UN special envoy Ibrahim) Gambari I have clearly conveyed my wish to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi."

Ban underscored the challenges during his visit, which the New York-based Human Rights Watch warned would be a "huge failure" if he fails to secure the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

"It is a very difficult mission," Ban said.

"But in order to bring changes to Myanmar in the political reconciliation and democratisation (process), we need to do our best."

Ban said he was aware that he was visiting Myanmar "under certain uncertainties", apparently referring to the resumption on Friday of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial for allegedly breaching the terms of her house arrest.

She faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

"But I am going to convey the concerns of the international community about the slow pace of the political reconciliation and democratisation process," he added.

As well as Senior General Than Shwe, Ban said he will also meet with Prime Minister Thein Sein and representatives of all registered political parties and former armed groups.

"Through my meetings... I will convey exactly what the international community expects and wishes (regarding) the way they want to see changes in Myanmar."

He will also visit the region devastated by Cyclone Nargis last year to see recovery efforts.

Ban arrived in Singapore on Thursday from Japan and has already met Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. - AFP/de

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