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Burma Opposition Fevers UN Push Ove

By Sutin Wannabovorn 

BANGKOK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Burma's main opposition party and pro-democracy
students in exile on Wednesday welcomed a United Nations plan to press the
ruling military government to call elections. 

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who met Burmese leader Senior General Than
Shwe in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, said he would send a special envoy to Burma
to meet leaders of the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). 

Annan said on Wednesday the envoy would monitor the country's democratic

``It's a little unusual for the United Nations,'' Annan said of the envoy's
mission. ``We are not going in with a timetable like we did with Cambodia.
What we'd like to see is free and fair elections and freedom of speech.'' 

Annan said Than Shwe did not indicate when elections could be held in Burma. 

The United Nations has previously sent a special human rights investigator to
Burma but not an envoy to discuss democratic reforms. At times over the past
few years the human rights investigator has been denied a visa to enter Burma.

``This is very good news. We regard this as a progressive step and it makes us
see some light (for democracy),'' a member of Nobel peace laureate Aung San
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party told Reuters by telephone
from Rangoon. 

The NLD is awaiting the visit of the U.N. special envoy but was sceptical
about the SPDC's sincerity in wanting to move toward more democracy, the NLD
member said. 

General Tin Oo, the Secretary Two of the SPDC, was quoted by official media as
saying on Monday that the military should lessen its role in politics and
never again seize power. 

``I heard such remarks from the radio report, but don't know whether he really
said that,'' the NLD member said. 

Suu Kyi's NLD won a landslide victory in a 1990 election but the then-ruling
military State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) ignored the result
and refused to hand over power. 

The SLORC changed its name to the SPDC in November and made major changes to
the cabinet although the top leadership remained the same. 

``Since they have changed the name to SPDC, we have not yet seen any positive
sign of dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi,'' Saw Min, the joint secretary of the
exiled All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) said in Bangkok. 

Saw Min said the ABSDF also welcomed the visit of the UN special envoy but was
sceptical over Tin Oo's remarks. 

``The UN move will be seen as a big step in the progress for political
development in our country. I think the envoy will play a major role in
pushing for dialogue between the SPDC and Aung San Suu Kyi,'' he said. 

Suu Kyi said in a videotape made earlier this month and released this week
that the NLD did not feel a mediator was necessary for talks with the

``A mediator is not a necessity, but once the military regime has made up its
mind to have dialogue they might want...to use somebody as a mediator,'' she

``I do not think mediators are truly necessary if both sides have decided that
they want to talk to each other. (The NLD) long ago decided we wanted to talk
to the ... SPDC,'' she said. 

Suu Kyi, whose tape was released on the sidelines of a meeting of leaders of
the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) also said political change
in Burma was key to bringing about stability and economic development. 

``Unless there is development, it means that Burma will be a weak spot in the
region,'' she said. 

``ASEAN is so cautious about making any comment that would support our
people,'' she said. ``As for the governments of ASEAN, I think that some of
them do understand that Burma is in need of political change and that we
cannot just go on like this.'' ^REUTERS@ 

05:52 12-17-97