Burma's Thein Sein 'would accept Suu Kyi as president'

President Thein Sein told the BBC's Hardtalk that he "would accept" Aung San Suu Kyi as president

Burmese leader Thein Sein has told the BBC he would accept Aung San Suu Kyi as president if the people vote for her.

The president insisted that the will of the people would be respected whoever they chose in an election due in 2015.

He reiterated his commitment to the country's reform programme, and said he and Ms Suu Kyi were working together.

Thein Sein, a former leader of the military junta that ruled Burma for decades, has overseen a dramatic shift towards a civilian-led government.

Analysis

For a man who was persona non grata in the US until last week, President Thein Sein has been looking remarkably relaxed in New York City.

Admittedly I met him in the confines of a swanky Manhattan hotel, surrounded by an entourage of advisers and minders, but nonetheless this former stalwart of Burma's military dictatorship is clearly relishing his rebirth as an unlikely champion of reform.

He even managed a smile for his interrogator from the BBC. All those years spent vilifying the evil and imperialist western media appear to have been forgotten.

In person Thein Sein lacks the charisma of the Nobel laureate democracy activist Aung San Su Kyi, but his role in Burma's political re-awakening is as important as hers. Indeed the two of them appear to recognise they need each other.

Two days ago he spoke at the UN General Assembly, congratulating Ms Suu Kyi on receiving the US Congressional Gold Medal.

In an interview with the BBC's Hardtalk programme, he went even further by talking about the possibility of the Nobel Peace Prize winner becoming president.

"Whether she will become a leader of the nation depends on the will of the people. If the people accept her, then I will have to accept her," he said.

"There isn't any problem between me and Aung San Suu Kyi. We are working together."

But he added that the army, which retains many of the seats in parliament, will continue to play a central role in the country's politics.

Ms Suu Kyi was kept under house arrest for 15 years and repeatedly denounced by the former regime.

Thein Sein's remarks this week have been the warmest from Burma's political leadership since the junta was formally dissolved in March 2011.

Aung San Suu Kyi receives flowers and a shawl at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana, September 25 Aung San Suu Kyi was feted on a recent trip to the US

But Burma still faces many problems, including a recent outbreak of fighting between Muslim Rohingya people and Buddhist Rakhine people.

The president has repeatedly pledged to end internal strife, but neither he nor Ms Suu Kyi have provided a possible solution to the problems in Rakhine state.

Meanwhile, the president also renewed his appeal for economic sanctions placed on his country to be lifted.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already said the US would ease its import ban on Burmese goods.

Many other targeted measures have already been lifted by the US and other Western countries.

You can watch Hardtalk on BBC World News on Tuesday at 0330/0830/1530/2030 GMT and on the BBC News Channel.

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