Myanmar Junta Chief Willing to Meet With Pro-democracy Leader

In the first official remarks since a visit by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari this week, junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe said he would hold talks with Suu Kyi if she publicly agreed to a set of conditions, including that Suu Kyi abandon her “confrontational” positions on political issues and stop her support for international sanctions against the regime.

After a recent increase in fuel prices, protest rallies in Myanmar gained momentum, hitting a high-profile note when thousands of Buddhist monks joined civilians in taking to the streets to demonstrate against the government. The protests were the biggest anti-government demonstration in nearly two decades.

The government issued a violent crackdown on the rallies last week, killing at least 10 people, according news agency accounts of state media reports. State media also gave new figures Thursday for the number of people arrested during crackdown. The reports said nearly 2,100 people had been detained, with almost 700 already released.

The United States called for the military to talk to Suu Kyi — who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years — without conditions and said the senior U.S. diplomat in Myanmar would visit its new capital Naypyidaw to urge them to begin a “meaningful dialogue” with opposition groups, Reuters reported.

“We don’t believe that there need to be any conditions. This is a dialogue between a government and its people. You shouldn’t need to have conditions,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Shwe’s announcement came after a four-day trip to Myanmar by Gambari, who delivered “the strongest possible message” to military leaders, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told reporters.

Gambari is scheduled to de-brief the secretary-general on his trip Thursday. Ban will address the U.N. Security Council Friday.