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Suu Kyi attends high-level talks in Myanmar over reform course

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has met with President Thein Sein and military leaders in a rare meeting. The talks aim to pave the way for an election scheduled for November.

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with Myanmar's top political and military leaders on Friday ahead of elections that she has said her party may boycott if the constitution is not changed.

The unprecedented talks at the presidential house in the capital, Naypyitaw, were aimed at bridging differences between participants over a reform process that many people feel has stalled.

The meeting was attended by President Thein Sein, Suu Kyi, top military commander Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the speaker and the president of both houses of parliament, and a representative of ethnic minorities, Aye Maung.

Possible boycott

Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate who spent several years under house arrest by the country's former military regime, has suggested in the past that her National League for Democracy (NLD) may boycott the elections if several clauses in the constitution are not changed, including one that does not allow her to become president because her sons are foreign citizens.

Suu Kyi's late husband was British, as are her two children.

The NLD, which already boycotted an election in 2010 while Suu Kyi was still under military house arrest, is expected to win the poll.

"What is important is that these talks continue and this should lead to the kind of agreements that will smooth the way to free, fair, inclusive elections," Suu Kyi told reporters on Thursday ahead of the talks.

She added that November polls would be the biggest test yet of whether the country had succeeded in making the transition toward democracy.

She declined to say conclusively whether her party was planning a boycott or not, saying only that it was "not closing off any options."

Ethnic tensions

Presidential spokesman and Information Minister Ye Htut told reporters after the two-hour meeting that it "discussed issues on constitution amendments, the ethnic peace process, the holding of a free and fair election and stability during the post-election period."

He said the participants agreed to meet again when parliament reopens on May 11 after a holiday recess.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, was under military rule from 1962. In 2010, the generals allowed polls leading to an elected government. When Thein Sein became president in 2011, he launched a series of political and economic reforms, but the military still holds extensive powers.

The country is still facing a number of armed ethnic-based insurgencies in various regions. The government has said it wants to achieve a national ceasefire before the elections. A draft agreement was formulated last week by negotiators from the government and ethnic groups.

tj/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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