Myanmar parliament stand-off a "technical matter:" Suu Kyi

YANGON Thu Apr 26, 2012 5:39am EDT

Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi (L) talks to reporters after meeting with Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at Suu Kyi's home in Yangon April 26, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Giulio Terzi (L) talks to reporters after meeting with Myanmar pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at Suu Kyi's home in Yangon April 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun

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YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, said on Thursday that her party's refusal to take up newly won seats in parliament was a "technical matter" that could be resolved soon, responding to mounting criticism of her stance on the issue.

Her National League for Democracy (NLD) says it won't attend parliament unless the wording of the swearing-in oath is changed - the first sign of major friction with the ruling, army-backed party since the NLD swept historic by-elections on April 1.

In her most detailed explanation of the NLD's thinking on the issue so far, Suu Kyi told reporters in Yangon on Thursday that the party was seeking to iron out "inconsistency" between the oath and the country's election laws.

"This is why I say it is a technical matter ... You can't say one thing in one place and another thing in another place. There has to be consistency," the Nobel Peace Laureate said during a news conference with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi in the garden of her lake-side home.

"You mustn't forget that this is one of the major issues that prevented us from entering the 2010 elections."

The NLD is refusing to swear to "safeguard" the 2008 army-created constitution, which guarantees the military a substantial presence in parliament and which Suu Kyi has vowed to amend. It wants the word in the oath changed to "respect."

Suu Kyi's party only agreed to rejoin the electoral process last year after similar wording was removed from party registration laws. It boycotted 2010 elections that were widely criticized as rigged in favor of the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which still dominates parliament.

The stalemate has unsettled party faithful who are eager for the NLD to help tackle Myanmar's huge development problems, while perplexing analysts who say the gambit risks being seen as pedantic and confrontational.

Suu Kyi said the NLD did not want to "expand" the problem into a political issue and that she was still committed to working closely with President Thein Sein as the country rapidly opens up to the world after decades of isolation.

Terzi was on a two-day visit to Myanmar accompanied by a business delegation following the European Union's move this week to suspend most of its economic sanctions against Myanmar.

"We hope that the present problem will be smoothed over without too much difficulty before too long," Suu Kyi said.

The USDP parliamentary leader this week rejected any change to the oath, but other parties are seeking to build support for a compromise proposal, party representatives told Reuters in the administrative capital Naypyitaw this week.

Aye Maung, the leader of the ethnic Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, said he was trying to negotiate with the NLD and USDP to find a solution.

(Additional reporting by Thu Rein Hlaing; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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