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- Dubai 05:22 06:35 12:33 15:53 18:26 19:39
Myanmar's military government has rejected a United Nations offer of observers for May's constitutional referendum and elections in 2010, redoubling concerns about the freedom and fairness of both polls.
"Holding the referendum for the constitution is within the State sovereignty," Sunday's official newspapers quoted referendum commissioner Thaung Nyunt as telling visiting UN special envoy Ibrahim Gambari.
"Arrangements have been made for the eligible voters to cast their votes freely," he added, squashing any hopes the international community might have had that independent observers would be allowed in to monitor the plebiscite.
He also spurned Gambari's offer of UN technical assistance, saying the former Burma's military had "enough experience" with running elections.
The last time it did so, in 1990, it ignored the result when opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party won more than 80 per cent of the vote.
The latest rejection was not unexpected, but diplomats said it signaled the end of whatever small desire the generals had to compromise amid worldwide outrage at September's bloody crackdown on the biggest pro-democracy protests in 20 years.
"It shows the regime has lost its appetite for cooperating with the UN," an Asian diplomat, who did not want to be named, said.
The junta announced its plans for a referendum and elections last month as part of a seven-step "roadmap to democracy" that most Western governments have dismissed as a blueprint for the generals keeping their grip on power.
Gambari, who is making his third trip to the Southeast Asian nation since the September protests, met Myanmar's health and planning ministers in Yangon on Sunday, as well as a deputy foreign minister.
UN officials are not revealing details of Gambari's schedule, which they describe as "fluid". However, he is not expected to be allowed to travel to the new capital, Naypyidaw, to see junta supremo Than Shwe.
The Nigerian diplomat spent 90 minutes on Saturday with Suu Kyi, who has been held under house arrest and virtually incommunicado for the past four years, but details of their discussions have not been revealed. (Reuters)
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