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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Envoy Meets Both Sides in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar -- A United Nations envoy held back-to-back meetings Sunday with detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the Myanmar junta in a bid to end the country's biggest crisis in 19 years, as an oppressive show of force by troops cleared the streets of protesters clamoring for democracy.

But Ibrahim Gambari, the UN's special envoy to Myanmar, failed to see either the junta leader, Senior General Than Shwe, or his deputy in his scheduled meetings early Sunday, and was returning late Sunday to the junta's headquarters for a possible third meeting.

Gambari "looks forward to meeting ... Than Shwe" before he leaves the region, a UN statement said.

It said Gambari met with the acting prime minister, the deputy foreign minister and the ministers of information and culture in the junta's new bunker-like capital, Naypyitaw, 385 kilometers north of Yangon.

While these officials have senior positions in the ruling coterie, the final say in all decisions rests with Than Shwe, and to some extent Deputy Senior General Maung Aye.

The swift diplomatic developments occurred as thousands of troops locked down Myanmar's largest cities Sunday. Scores of people were arrested overnight, further weakening a flagging uprising to end 45 years of military dictatorship that began Aug. 19 with protests against fuel price increases.

The protests drew international attention after thousands of Buddhist monks joined the people in venting anger at decades of brutal military rule. At the height of the protests, some 70,000 people turned out, which were crushed Wednesday and Thursday when government troops opened fire into the crowds.

The government says 10 people were killed, but independent sources say the number is far higher.

A video shot Sunday by a dissident group, Democratic Voice of Burma, showed a monk, covered in bruises, floating face down in a Yangon river. It was not clear how long the body had been in the river.

Gambari's efforts began Saturday when he came from Singapore to Yangon and was immediately flown to Naypyitaw. After his meetings Sunday, he returned to Yangon and was whisked to the State Guest House to meet Suu Kyi, who was brought out of house arrest to see him in what appeared to be an unexpected concession by the junta.

Gambari and Suu Kyi met for over an hour, the UN statement said, but gave no details.

An Asian diplomat said that Gambari flew back to Naypyitaw on Sunday evening, raising hopes that he could still meet Than Shwe or Maung Aye. It was also possible that he was carrying a message from Suu Kyi to the leadership.

In Sochi, President Vladimir Putin said Friday that sanctions against Myanmar were premature but said he was sorry about civilian deaths in the crackdown on anti-government protesters in Yangon. "As far as sanctions are concerned, this is a topic to be especially considered in the United Nations," Putin said after talks with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at his Black Sea residence of Bocharov Ruchei. "It is premature to speak about this now."

AP, Reuters