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U.N. Envoy Meets Myanmar Leader, Opponent

In this picture released by the U.N., Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari, right, meets Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, left in this November 2006 file photo in Yangon, Myanmar. Gambari, the U.N.'s special envoy to Myanmar, met Suu Kyi again on Oct. 1, 2007.
AP Photo/UN
A U.N. envoy met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Tuesday, hours after an audience with Myanmar's military leader in his quest to end the junta's crackdown on democracy advocates.

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. Other diplomats said he then flew to Yangon to see Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace laureate who has come to symbolize the yearning for democracy in Myanmar and has been under house arrest for years.

Gambari's meetings came as the junta's foreign minister defended a deadly crackdown on democracy advocates that provoked global revulsion.

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.

CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports a former intelligence officer for the ruling junta has said hundreds of monks - thousands of protesters in total - were killed during the crackdown. The government has reported only 10 deaths.

Dissident groups say up to 200 protesters were slain and 6,000 detained.

Diplomats in the country say that the Buddhist monks, once a common sight on the streets of Myanmar, have all but disappeared, reports Whitaker.

"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.

Gambari, a former Nigerian foreign minister, has been in the country since Saturday and met with Suu Kyi in Sunday. But Than Shwe, who is notoriously difficult to meet with, did not make himself available until Tuesday. Gambari is scheduled to leave later Tuesday.

U.N. associate spokesman Farhan Haq said Gambari would urge the junta "to cease the repression of peaceful protest, release detainees, and move more credibly and inclusively in the direction of democratic reform, human rights and national reconciliation."

State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the U.S. wanted to see Gambari convey a clear message on behalf of the world body "about the need for Burma's leaders to engage in a real and serious political dialogue with all relative parties."

He said that included talking with Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace laureate who has been under house arrest for nearly 12 of the last 18 years.

The military has ruled Myanmar since 1962, and the current junta came to power in 1988 after crushing a much larger pro-democracy movement in which about 3,000 people are believed to have been killed. The generals called elections in 1990 but refused to give up power when Suu Kyi's party won.

Simmering anger against the junta exploded in mid-August after it hiked fuel prices as much as 500 percent. The anti-price hike marches soon ballooned into mass demonstrations led by Buddhist monks.

Opposition groups say several thousand people were arrested in the crackdown, which reached its peak on Sept. 26 and 26 when troops opened fire on unarmed demonstrators. Among the dead was a Japanese television cameraman, Kenji Nagai of APF news agency.

On Tuesday, the head of APF, Toru Yamaji, laid white chrysanthemums at the site where Nagai was gunned down in Yangon. He then kneeled at the site and prayed.

During the crackdown, many monks were dragged out of their monasteries and locked up. Hundreds of demonstrators were also reported held in makeshift prisons at old factories, a race track and universities around Yangon.

It was impossible to independently verify the reports in the tightly controlled nation.

"The people are angry but afraid. Many are poor and struggling in life so they don't join the protests anymore. The monks are weak because they were subjected to attacks," said Theta, a 30-year-old university graduate who drives a taxi and gave only his first name.