RANGOON, Burma – Detained Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi was escorted into surprise talks with a senior military junta official on Saturday, a day after a court rejected her appeal against the extension of her house arrest.
The unannounced meeting between Suu Kyi and Relations Minister Aung Kyi lasted 45 minutes and took place at a government guest house near her lakeside home in Yangon, according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was driven to the meeting in a police motorcade, the officials said.
Details of the talks were not immediately known. The meeting came a week after Suu Kyi sent a letter to junta chief Senior Gen. Than Shwe. In it, she said she is willing to cooperate with the junta in having international sanctions lifted and proposed that she meet with Western diplomats to discuss the measures, according to her National League for Democracy party.
The letter appeared to be a confidence-building gesture to the junta. Suu Kyi, 64, had previously welcomed sanctions as a way to pressure the junta to achieve political reconciliation with the pro-democracy movement.
The movement has insisted on concessions from the government if they are to work together, particularly the freeing of political prisoners and the reopening of party offices around the country.
Suu Kyi's meeting with Aung Kyi was their sixth since October 2007 and the first since January 2008. The post of relations minister was created at the urging of U.N. special envoy Ibrahim Gambari after the U.N. Security Council urged the junta to open talks with the country's pro-democracy movement.
Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years.
Friday's court ruling against Suu Kyi upheld her August conviction for breaking the terms of her house arrest by briefly sheltering an uninvited American at her home earlier this year. She was sentenced to an additional 18 months of house arrest, which means she cannot participate in elections scheduled for next year, the first in Burma in two decades.
Suu Kyi's legal team said Friday they plan to appeal to the Supreme Court within 60 days.
The court's decision was expected, and was another reminder that the military junta treads warily when considering concessions to the opposition or improving relations with the West.
The United States announced last week that it is modifying its tough policy of isolating the military regime, and will instead try to engage the junta through high-level talks.
It said it will still maintain its political and economic sanctions against the regime. It and other Western nations apply sanctions because of Burma's poor human rights record and its failure to turn over power to Suu Kyi's party after it won the last elections in 1990.