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U.N.’s Ban invited to visit Myanmar in July – diplomats

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U.N.’s Ban invited to visit Myanmar in July – diplomats

Thu Jun 18, 2009 5:42am IST

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By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Myanmar’s ruling military junta has invited U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to visit the country in early July, though it was not clear whether he would accept, Western diplomats said on Wednesday.

The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ban was concerned the government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, could use such a visit for propaganda purposes.

“He doesn’t want his trip to be seen as giving any kind of legitimacy to the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi,” one of the diplomats told Reuters, referring to the imprisoned leader of Myanmar’s democratic opposition.

Suu Kyi is currently on trial for allegedly violating the terms of her imprisonment. She has been detained for more than 13 of the last 19 years.

Ban has not made a final decision on whether to visit Myanmar, said Michele Montas, his spokeswoman.

The U.N. chief had said that he was considering a trip to Myanmar soon to press the junta to release Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners in the country and to keep its promises to democratize.

But it was not clear until now whether the generals would be willing to receive him.

The diplomats said they suspected Myanmar’s ruling generals want to ensure that Suu Kyi is in detention when next year’s multi-party elections take place.

“Ban can put pressure on them to let her go,” one of the diplomats said. “We don’t have many options apart from the secretary-general.”

The trial of Suu Kyi and of American John Yettaw, whose uninvited visit to her home last month was deemed a breach of her house arrest, is set to resume on June 26. Suu Kyi faces up to five years in prison if found guilty.

Ban and his special envoy to Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, received a petition on Tuesday signed by more than 670,000 people worldwide. It urged Ban to make the release of Suu Kyi and more than 2,000 political prisoners his personal priority.

Czech President Vaclav Havel, who spent many years in prison due to his activities as an anti-communist dissident, was among the world figures who signed the petition.

© Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved

http://in.reuters.com/article/topNews/idINIndia-40412120090618?sp=true

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Written by Lwin Aung Soe

June 19, 2009 at 4:28 am

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