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Bkk Post-Foreign ministers to consi

Subject: Bkk Post-Foreign ministers to consider Burma ties

Bangkok Post July 9, 1999.

Foreign ministers to consider Burma ties
Policy-makers to make a judgment

Nussara Sawatsawang

Foreign ministers of the European Union will determine future relations with
Burma after studying reports from a special EU mission, Finnish Ambassador
Tauno Kaaria said yesterday.

Mr Kaaria refused to disclose the outcome of the mission, which left Rangoon
on Wednesday, and said it would be reported to an EU committee dealing with
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The mission was designed to resume dialogue with the government.

"Eventually, it's up to the policy-makers to make a judgment," the
ambassador said.

Represented by four senior officials from Finland, Portugal, the European
Commission and the EU secretariat responsible for external affairs, the
mission, according to Mr Kaaria, met Secretary One Lt-Gen Khin Nyunt,
opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and some ethnic minority leaders during
the two-day visit.

Mr Kaaria said the Finnish official, who met him shortly before leaving
Bangkok for Helsinki, was neither hopeful nor pessimistic about the result.

Finland holds the EU rotating presidency starting from the beginning of

Despite the EU's low-profile mission, Bhansoon Ladavalaya, an analyst on
Burma at Chiang Mai University, said the move looked positive and could
bring an end to the confrontation between the EU and Rangoon.

But he urged the EU to consider extending some assistance while persuading
the Burmese government to make some political progress, including completion
of the constitution-drafting process and having a dialogue with Mrs Suu Kyi.

Mr Kaaria emphasised earlier that the EU had set no conditions for dialogue
with Rangoon, although respect of human rights and democracy remained its
main concerns.

"We have no conditions. Our main goal is to see whether we are able to
establish contacts that could lead to a dialogue with the Burmese
government," he said.

The EU has imposed aid sanctions and barred entry visas for senior Burmese
officials since 1996 in protest against widespread human rights abuses and
the political impasse between the military regime and Mrs Suu Kyi.

The EU's tough stance has led to a deterioration of relations between the EU
and Asean. Burmese issues and Asean-EU ties are expected to be raised at the
annual meeting in Singapore.