A U.N. envoy met with Myanmar's military leader Tuesday in a bid to end the country's political crisis, as the junta's foreign minister defended a deadly crackdown on democracy advocates that provoked global revulsion.
Ibrahim Gambari, the U.N.'s special envoy to Myanmar, met with Senior Gen. Than Shwe in the junta's remote new capital, Naypyitaw, two foreign diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity citing protocol. No details of the meeting were available.
While Gambari was trying to broker peace, the junta's security forces lightened their presence in Yangon, the country's main city, which remained quiet after troops and police brutally quelled mass protests last week. The 9 p.m.-to-5 a.m. curfew was scaled back to 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Dissident groups say up to 200 protesters were slain and 6,000 detained in the crackdown, compared to the regime's report of 10 deaths.
"Normalcy has now returned in Myanmar," Foreign Minister Nyan Win told the U.N. General Assembly in New York, adding that security forces acted with restraint for a month but had to "take action to restore the situation."
Nyan Win made no reference to the deaths. Instead, he blamed foreigners for the violence.
"Recent events make clear that there are elements within and outside the country who wish to derail the ongoing process (toward democracy) so that they can take advantage of the chaos that would follow," Nyan Win said.
"They have become more and more emboldened and have stepped up their campaign to confront the government," he said. "The destiny of each and every country can only be determined by its government and people," he said. "It cannot be imposed from outside."
Nyan Win's comments indicated that the junta would not give up its hardline position and is willing to thumb its nose at international demands to restore democracy and free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The choice of the city of Helsinki is not incidental as the capital of Finland had hosted US-Soviet negotiations on the limitation of nuclear stockpiles in 1969