YANGON: The UN chief, Mr Ban Ki-moon praised the Myanmar pro-democracy leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi Tuesday for backing down over a boycott of Parliament which had threatened to stall the fragile reform process.
After his first ever talks with the Nobel laureate, Mr Ban hailed Ms Suu Kyi as a "real leader" who had shown "flexibility" in climbing down over a refusal to take a parliamentary oath therein ending a political impasse.
In a rare retreat, Ms Suu Kyi announced on Monday that her National League for Democracy party would take its seats in Parliament — dominated by the military and its political allies — and pledge to "safeguard" the army-created constitution.
"I know that it must have been a very difficult decision," Mr Ban said.
"But a real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people. This is what she has done yesterday and I really admire and respect her decision.
"I am sure she'll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian for the betterment and well-being of this great country."
Ms Suu Kyi, who won a parliamentary seat in historic April 1 by-elections, is now expected to take the oath on Wednesday, according to NLD sources.
Appearing alongside Mr Ban after their near hour-long talks at her lakeside villa in Yangon, ms Suu Kyi said she was willing to compromise for the sake of reform.
"We have always believed in flexibility, in the political process… that is the only way in which we can achieve our goal without violence," she said.
The UN chief, who on Monday became the first visiting foreigner to address Myanmar's legislature, also lauded the reformist efforts of the President, Mr Thein Sein and pledged to support Myanmar's government through its "irreversible" transition to democracy.
He added that meetings with Thein Sein and the NLD leader had left him "convinced that they will continue to make progress."
Tuesday's face-to-face talks were the first between Ms Suu Kyi and Mr Ban, who left frustrated after a previous visit in 2009 when the generals who ruled the nation for decades refused to allow him to see the veteran activist while in detention.
The opposition leader had dropped her boycott of parliament saying her party did not want to cause "a political problem or tension", ending the first rift with the government since the April by-elections.
"Our voters voted for us because they want to see us in Parliament," she said.
The democracy icon has said one of her priorities is to push for an amendment of the 2008 constitution, under which one quarter of the seats in parliament are reserved for unelected military officials.
Mr Ban, who also invited Ms Suu Kyi to visit the UN, is the latest in a string of top foreign visitors to Myanmar amid a thaw in the army-dominated nation's relations with the West.
In a landmark speech to Parliament on Monday following talks with Mr Thein Sein, the UN chief paid tribute to Ms Suu Kyi and the NLD for participating in the by-elections. He also welcomed moves by the international community to reward sweeping changes in the country since the end of direct army rule last year, and called for the West to go further in easing or lifting sanctions.
But after their meeting Ms Suu Kyi sounded a note of caution over the deepening of aid to Myanmar, urging international support to be carefully targeted.
"Whenever aid comes to Burma… it should come in such a way to empower the people and decrease dependency on the government," she said.