Suu Kyi talks sanctions with envoys

YANGON: Detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was granted a rare meeting Friday with top Western diplomats to discuss sanctions imposed on the military-ruled nation.

The Nobel Laureate met with the heads of the US, UK and Australian embassies in Yangon for an hour at a government guesthouse, following a request in a letter she wrote to the junta chief, said US embassy spokesman Drake Weisert.

"We can confirm that sanctions were discussed at the meeting. However, we do not want to pre-empt Aung San Suu Kyi's discussions with the authorities by discussing the details of the meeting," Weisert told AFP.

Suu Kyi's correspondence with Senior General Than Shwe, which offered suggestions on getting Western sanctions lifted, marked an easing of her stance after years of advocating punitive measures against the ruling generals.

Her lawyer Nyan Win said on Friday she "wanted to get the facts and figures on Western sanctions" at the diplomat talks.

"The authorities allowing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's request is good -- she is getting what she needs," he added. "Daw" is a term of respect in Myanmar.

"We are hoping that the Senior General and Aung San Suu Kyi will meet soon," Nyan Win said, adding that meeting with diplomats meant she "could get chances" to become more involved in politics.

A statement from Australia's department of foreign affairs and trade said the meeting was a "positive step by both the Burmese authorities and Aung San Suu Kyi". Burma is Myanmar's former name.

"The government hopes that this constructive meeting may lay the groundwork for further contact," it said, adding that Suu Kyi appeared in "good health".

Myanmar officials were present at the talks, the statement added.

In the past week, Suu Kyi has also had two meetings with Myanmar minister Aung Kyi, the official liaison between herself and the junta -- the first time they have met for talks since January 2008.

State media reported Sunday that they discussed her letter at the first meeting, but further details of the talks have not yet emerged.

Last week Suu Kyi's appeal against her extended house arrest was rejected by judges, who upheld her August conviction over an incident in which an American man swam uninvited to her house in May.

The guilty verdict for the frail 64-year-old, who has spent much of the past 20 years in detention, earned her an extra 18 months in house arrest and provoked international outrage.

But Washington recently unveiled a major policy shift to re-engage the junta and held its highest level talks with Myanmar in nearly a decade.

It emerged Thursday that a senior Myanmar official -- likely prime minister Thein Sein -- will attend USPresident Barack Obama's talks next month with Southeast Asian nations in Singapore.

But the US has warned against lifting sanctions until there is progress towards democracy and repeatedly pressed for Suu Kyi's release.

"While we welcome the opportunity to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, we continue to urge Burmese authorities to release her and all other political prisoners from detention immediately and without condition," Weisert added Friday.

Lawyers for Suu Kyi say she welcomes US re-engagement with the country, which has been under military rule since 1962.

The junta refused to let her take power after the country's last elections in 1990, which her National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide, leading the US and the EU to impose sanctions.

Suu Kyi's extended house arrest keeps her off the scene for elections promised by the regime next year, adding to criticism that the polls are a sham designed to legitimise the military regime's grip on power.