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Suu Kyi Seeks Meeting With Myanmar Junta Leader

Myanmar security guards building a fence at Aung San Suu Kyi's lakeside house in August 2009.
YANGON (Reuters) -- Detained Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has requested a meeting with the military regime's top leader, adding to signs that lines of communication are opening up between her and the junta.

In a letter dated November 11, obtained by Reuters today, the 64-year-old Nobel peace laureate said she wanted to work with General Than Shwe's government, which calls itself the State Peace and Development Council, in the interests of the country.

News of the letter comes after U.S. President Barack Obama on November 14 offered Myanmar the prospect of better ties with Washington if it pursued democratic reform and freed political prisoners, including Suu Kyi.

"I would like to earnestly request permission to meet you so that we can talk about cooperating with the State Peace and Development Council in working in the interest of the nation," Suu Kyi wrote. It would be the first meeting with the strongman of the former Burma since the 2003 arrest of Suu Kyi, sentenced in August to an additional 18 months of house detention for harboring an American who swam uninvited to her lakeside home.

Last month Suu Kyi held a rare meeting with a minister from the ruling junta. In September, she made a formal offer to the regime to help negotiate with Western countries to lift sanctions, which critics say have been largely ineffective.

She has spent more than 14 of the past 20 years in detention of one sort or another, mostly under house arrest.

Myanmar's military, which has ruled the country for almost 50 years and is shunned by the West over its rights record, plans to hold multi-party elections in 2010.

In the letter, Suu Kyi also expressed thanks to the regime for allowing her to meet on November 4 with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to visit Myanmar in 14 years.

She asked for permission to visit three senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party who are also under house arrest and approval to hold a plenary meeting with leaders of her party in her home before meeting with Than Shwe.

Nyan Win, spokesman of the NLD party and a member of Suu Kyi's legal defense team, said the government had yet to reply to her letter.

Lawyers for Suu Kyi said on November 13 they had lodged an appeal against her house arrest with the Supreme Court but expected no rapid decision.