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First post-election meeting for Suu Kyi, US envoys

A US State Dept aide speaks on a telephone behind US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, ssistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski and Ambassador to Burma Derek Mitchell in Naypyidaw on Monday. (PHOTO:DVB)

Aung San Suu Kyi met American diplomats on Monday as Burma transitions to a new government after her party’s sweeping election victory last November.

Suu Kyi met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in the capital, Naypyitaw.

The purpose of the visit was to discuss the Burmese government’s status in moving power from the military-linked Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) to Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

Burma has been embroiled in decades of conflict with a myriad of ethnic minority rebel groups.

Suu Kyi has said a peaceful resolution to the conflict is the first priority of her government.

Blinken told a news conference after the 30-minute meeting that the peace process was a chief concern for his visiting delegation.

“The United States will do whatever the stakeholders in this historic effort believe will be helpful to aid in its success,” he told reporters. “Meanwhile, we urge an end to offensive military operations and unfettered humanitarian access to civilians in need.”

Blinken said he also urged the government to expedite the release of political prisoners.

“Indeed, one of the great legacies of this government is the work that it has done and reform broadly and releasing the political prisoners in particular. And it would be a fitting completion of that legacy to release all political prisoners so that by the time the transition is complete and new government takes office no one is in jail because of their political views,” he said.

There are 128 political prisoners in Burma, according to a December report from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a non-profit humanitarian rights group.

An NLD-led government will take power in March, following a presidential election expected to take place in February, but the military will remain a powerful political force.

A quarter of seats in parliament are reserved for unelected military officials. Three important cabinet ministers – home affairs, defence and border affairs – are also chosen by the commander-in-chief.

But Suu Kyi herself is barred from seeking the presidency.

Last week her party said it would not press for an immediate change to the constitution that bars her from the office, and will instead appoint a ceremonial head of state.