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Reuters-UN trying resolve Myanmar's

Subject: Reuters-UN trying resolve Myanmar's political problems 

UN trying resolve Myanmar's political problems
06:01 a.m. Nov 27, 1998 Eastern
By Rajan Moses

BANGKOK, Nov 27 (Reuters) - The United Nations is seeking ways to help
overcome a political stalemate in Myanmar, where the pro-democracy
opposition is being stifled by the military government, Yangon-based
diplomats said on Friday.

A newspaper report saying the United Nations and World Bank had held secret
talks with the Myanmar government to offer it financial assistance to open
up a dialogue with the opposition was broadly correct but ``ahead of the
game,'' they said.

``There have been discussions on such a concept. They are exploratory talks,
looking at different concepts, to see if there could be some sort of
resolution to the political problems in Myanmar,'' said one Yangon-based

A senior Myanmar government spokesmen told Reuters he could neither deny or
confirm the report.

``I cannot confirm or deny it. I don't have enough information. Neither the
government nor the U.N. have said anything, but some diplomats seem to have
a lot to say about it. They may be floating a test balloon,'' he said.

The International Herald Tribune reported on Thursday the United Nations and
World Bank were willing to give Myanmar up to $1 billion in financial and
humanitarian aid in exchange for opening a dialogue with the opposition led
by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

The idea was first floated by U.N. special envoy Alvaro de Soto in Myanmar
during a visit there last month, the newspaper reported, quoting
unidentified sources involved in the talks.

The proposal was drawn up after an informal meeting in southern England
between five Yangon-based ambassadors, U.N. and World Bank officials, the
newspaper said.

Under the plan, Myanmar's military rulers would be rewarded with assistance
progressively each time there was some movement in government-opposition
dialogue, it added.

``But the details in the newspaper are too far ahead of the game. There were
discussions but not so detailed,'' said the diplomat, adding that the United
Nations was directly involved in the issue in consultations with the nations

The Myanmar spokesman said his country usually would not agree to anything
that had conditions attached to it.

``Myanmar never accepts anything with strings attached. If any organisation
or country wants to help the Myanmar people we will accept but if it has
conditions attached, we don't believe it is sincere,'' he added.

Another diplomat said that the informal meeting in England was attended by
Yangon-based ambassadors of Britain, the United States, the Philippines,
Singapore and Australia.

``There was a feeling among the international community of different
backgrounds that they try to find solutions to the political problem in
Myanmar,'' the Western diplomat added.

``We all want to see some change in Myanmar but it has not come about yet.
This concept is part of the U.N. secretary-general's mandate to find
solutions in Myanmar.''

``I would love to believe this idea may be the answer but we still have a
long way to go. The opposition has said it is neutral about the idea,'' the
diplomat added.

Myanmar's ruling generals have effectively put Suu Kyi's opposition National
League for Democracy (NLD) party in a political strait-jacket recently.

They have refused to hold a dialogue with the party if Suu Kyi were to
represent it at negotiations, detained almost 1,000 NLD members in
government ``guest houses'' in recent weeks, shut some NLD party offices and
curbed its political activities.

The government has refused most applications by journalists to visit Myanmar
and cut off telephone access to NLD officials.

The stern government action against the pro-democracy activists has been
taken despite protests from Western nations.

The NLD's call for a people's parliament of elected representatives from the
1990 general election, which the NLD swept but the result of which was not
recognised by the military, has been rejected by the government.

Diplomats said that given tough economic conditions prevailing in Myanmar,
the ``dollar diplomacy'' concept might be a novel way to attract the
cash-strapped government's attention.

``Inflation is very high, the economy is in a bad shape and the people are
facing lots of hardships. It could be a good time and way for a meeting of
minds,'' said a diplomat.