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President Thein Sein meets with KNU

(Mizzima) – Burmese President Thein Sein met with Karen National Union officials on Saturday, following the signing of a 13-point peace agreement on Friday in Naypyitaw.

Burmese President Thein Sein, right, Karen National Union (KNU) General-Secretary Naw Si Pho Ra Sein, center, and KNU General Mutu Saipo, left, at a meeting in Naypyitaw on Saturday, April, 7, 2012.  It was the president's first meeting with a Karen delegation since it has intensified efforts to bolster peace with the country's oldest insurgent group. Photo: AFP The meeting lasted more than one hour. It was the first time the president had talked with rebel leaders since he issued a call for dialogue last August.
KNU delegates will meet with Aung San Suu Kyi on Sunday.

"The president explained his change of attitude towards ethnic armed groups," a mediator, who participated in the meeting and wished to remain anonymous, told Reuters news agency.

An independent member of the peace negotiation group, who asked not to be named, described the encounter as "warm and open."

"The KNU said they will continue peace talks with the government until the end. They said they would urge other ethnic groups to work for peace," he said.

Six delegates, including members of the armed wing of the group, were taken by special flight for the landmark meeting, officials said.

Sources said the president told the KNU delegation that his government viewed the KNU as brothers rather than as an enemy.

The mediator also said that Sein, 66, had indicated the Constitution could be amended to give all groups political representation.

"The weapons held in their hands should not be for fighting each other but for defending the country," he quoted Sein as telling the KNU.

The KNU and government have been fighting since 1949. A cease-fire was signed in January.

The peace process is one of the most ambitious plans by the current quasi-civilian government dominated by retired generals. The new administration has begun democratic reforms it says are "irreversible" as it seeks to get sanctions lifted to allow a flood of foreign investment into one of Asia's last remaining frontier markets.

The West has called for the ethnic peace and the release of all political prisoners before the removal of all economic sanctions.

The meeting comes after an historic by-election on Sunday won by the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's League for Democracy Party.
Last Updated ( Monday, 09 April 2012 12:08 )  

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