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Myanmar Wants 'Smooth Relations' With Suu Kyi

Myanmar activists display an anti-Chinese slogan and portrait of detained democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in front of Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on Sunday.
Pornchai Kittiwongsakul
AFP/Getty Images
Myanmar activists display an anti-Chinese slogan and portrait of detained democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration in front of Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on Sunday.
Hear Commentator Hanna Ingber Winn, who lived in Myanmaar in 2003.

Myanmar's junta said Tuesday it hoped for "smooth relations" with detained with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a day after the military regime suggesting that her release from house was unlikely anytime soon.

China, meanwhile, reiterated its stance that international sanctions would not resolve the crisis in Myanmar, where massive anti-government protests have been met by a violent crackdown from security forces.

The New Light of Myanmar newspaper, a mouthpiece of the junta, printed a brief official announcement on its front page saying that Deputy Labor Minister Aung Kyi had been appointed "minister for relations" to coordinate contacts with Suu Kyi, the country's democracy icon who has been under house arrest for 12 of the past 18 years.

The appointment was suggested by U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari during his visit to Myanmar earlier this month, the statement said. It added that the junta had accepted the idea "in respect of Gambari's recommendation and in view of smooth relations" with Suu Kyi.

The printed statement followed a similar announcement the night before on state radio and television, a move that came amid intense international pressure for the junta to enter talks with Myanmar's democracy movement.

Suu Kyi's party issued a statement Tuesday calling for no preconditions for dialogue with the military junta.

The junta's leaders have offered to meet with Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest, but only on condition she renounce calls for international sanctions against the military regime for its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

The new official's duties were not detailed, and the announcement did not say when he might meet with the 62-year-old Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate.

It appeared, however, that Aung Kyi would coordinate Suu Kyi's contacts with both the regime and the U.N., which is seeking to end the political deadlock between democracy advocates and a military that has ruled since 1962.

Aung Kyi has a reputation among foreign diplomats, U.N. officials and aid groups as being relatively accessible and reasonable compared to top junta leaders.

But the state-run newspaper suggested in a Monday commentary that Suu Kyi would remain under house arrest until a new constitution was in place - a milestone that diplomats say could take years to achieve.

So far, only the first stage of drawing up guidelines for a new constitution has been completed - a process that took over a decade. The road map process is supposed to culminate in a general election at an unspecified date in the future.

The U.N. envoy's trip to Myanmar came after troops crushed pro-democracy demonstrations with gunfire on Sept. 26 and 27, prompting international condemnation. The regime said 10 people were killed, but dissident groups put the toll at up to 200 and say 6,000 people were detained, including thousands of monks who led the rallies.

While the United States has warned that it would push for U.N. sanctions against Myanmar if it fails to move toward democracy, China has said it is against such action.

"Sanctions or pressure will not help to solve the issue in Myanmar," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference in Beijing on Tuesday.

He said China was encouraged that the situation in Myanmar was calmer now. "We hope this momentum can be maintained," he said.

Protests erupted Aug. 19 after the government raised fuel prices, but anger mushroomed into broad-based marches by tens of thousands demanding democratic reforms.

The government has continued to round up suspected activists, although some people have been released.

The current junta came to power after crushing a 1988 pro-democracy uprising by killing as many as 3,000 people. Myanmar's previous constitution was suspended in 1988.

The junta then allowed elections in 1990, but nullified the vote after Suu Kyi's party won.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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