- Associated Press - Friday, October 31, 2014

NAYPYITAW, Myanmar (AP) - Myanmar’s president held talks Friday that for the first time brought together opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military chief in a bid to showcase the nation’s political dialogue less than two weeks before President Barack Obama and other leaders attend a regional summit.

Suu Kyi, who is constitutionally barred from running for president in next year’s election, has been calling for such a meeting for nearly a year to discuss Myanmar’s political reforms. Until now, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate had been repeatedly rebuffed.

After winning international praise for helping steer the country from dictatorship to democracy, President Thein Sein’s nominally civilian government is facing mounting criticism that early political reforms and peace talks with ethnic rebels have stalled.

Critics said Friday’s meeting would be little more than window dressing - an attempt to show participants at an upcoming East Asia Summit that political dialogue is continuing. The summit will be held in Myanmar next month.

On Thursday, Obama has discussed his upcoming visit in separate telephone conversations with Thein Sein and Suu Kyi. Obama underscored the need for an inclusive and credible process for conducting elections next year, the White House said. He also stressed the importance of addressing tensions in Rakhine State, where more than 100,000 members of a Muslim minority have fled attacks and persecution over the last two years.

Few details have been released about Friday’s talks, which are being held in the capital, Naypyitaw. A news conference is expected to follow.

More than a dozen other political and party leaders are taking part, including military chief Min Aung Hlaing, who plays a crucial political role under the country’s constitution and has veto power over constitutional amendments.

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