Asia

UN chief Ban Ki-moon meets Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma

  • 1 May 2012
  • From the section Asia

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has met opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the first time, in the latest stage of his landmark visit to Burma.

The meeting came a day after Ms Suu Kyi, who was elected to parliament a month ago, agreed to take the parliamentary oath despite its wording.

Mr Ban is on a three-day visit to Burma to encourage more democratic reforms.

On Monday he became the first visiting foreigner to address parliament.

Ms Suu Kyi and the 42 other members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) elected in 1 April by-elections are expected to be sworn in on Wednesday.

The NLD last week said they would not take part in a swearing-in ceremony unless the wording of the oath was changed from "safeguard" to "respect" the constitution.

The document, which was drawn up by the old military government and currently enshrines the armed forces' role in politics, will continue to be the focus of political battles in Burma, says the BBC's Rachel Harvey in Nay Pyi Taw.

Political transition

Mr Ban, who met Ms Suu Kyi at her house in Rangoon, said she had accepted an invitation to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Speaking ahead of his meeting with the Nobel Peace laureate, Mr Ban said he welcomed and respected her decision to compromise in the interests of the greater good.

"A real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people. This is what she has done yesterday and I really admire and respect her decision," Mr Ban said.

"I'm sure she'll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian," he added.

On Monday the UN chief called for a further easing of sanctions on Burma as he addressed parliament.

He said he was encouraged by recent reform efforts in the country, but said the process of change was fragile and needed nurturing.

Ms Suu Kyi has said she supports retaining some restrictions to ensure that the pace of reform continues.

The two agree on the need for greater development assistance so that ordinary people will be able to reap the dividends of Burma's political transition, our correspondent says.

Mr Ban also held talks with President Thein Sein, a former military figure who has ushered in a series of reforms since he took office last year.

The UN Secretary General last visited Burma in 2009 on the invitation of former junta strongman Gen Than Shwe, but described that as a "very difficult mission".

At the time, he was refused a visit to Ms Suu Kyi, who was in detention.

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