Page last updated at 02:32 GMT, Sunday, 16 August 2009 03:32 UK

Burma to free Suu Kyi US 'guest'

John Yettaw - image released by Myanmar News Agency, May 2009
John Yettaw swam uninvited to Ms Suu Kyi's lakeside home in May

US Senator Jim Webb has said jailed American John Yettaw is to be released by Burma's military leaders and will leave the country with him on Sunday.

The announcement came shortly after Mr Webb held talks with Burmese military ruler Than Shwe in Burma.

Mr Webb also met pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, days after she was given house arrest for 18 more months.

Mr Yettaw's uninvited visit to Ms Suu Kyi's home led to her trial. He was himself given seven years' hard labour.

Mr Webb's office said Mr Yettaw would be officially deported on Sunday morning and that the senator would bring him out of the country on a military aircraft that was returning to Bangkok.

Mr Yettaw's wife, Betty, told the Associated Press that she had not received any official notice that he would be returning home.

It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future
Senator Jim Webb

"If it's true, of course I'm extremely happy, and we're ecstatic," she said by telephone from their home in Camdenton, central Missouri.

One of his ex-wives, Yvonne, with whom he had six children, said she also had not received confirmation, but said she had been "stunned" by the news.

After his arrest, Mr Yettaw, said he had been sent by God to deliver a warning to Ms Suu Kyi that she would be assassinated.

Senator Webb, who also asked for the release of Ms Suu Kyi, was the most senior US official to meet the Burmese leader, his office said.

"I am grateful to the Myanmar government for honouring these requests," he said in a statement announcing Mr Yettaw's release.

"It is my hope that we can take advantage of these gestures as a way to begin laying a foundation of goodwill and confidence-building in the future," Senator Webb added.


Earlier, Ms Suu Kyi was taken to a state guesthouse near her home to meet Senator Webb, where the two held talks lasting about 40 minutes.


Senator Webb met Ms Suu Kyi after talks with Burma's military leader

The Democratic senator described the meeting as "an opportunity for me to convey my deep respect to Aung San Suu Kyi for the sacrifices she has made on behalf of democracy around the world".

Ms Suu Kyi went on trial in May after Mr Yettaw swam to her lakeside home with homemade flippers, evading guards.

She was charged with breaking the terms of her house arrest by sheltering Mr Yettaw and, after many delays, was sentenced on Tuesday to three years in prison.

Gen Than Shwe salutes during Armed Forces Day - 27 March 2006
Gen Than Shwe has ruled Burma since 1992

Although the sentence was commuted to 18 months' house arrest by Than Shwe, it ensures the opposition leader cannot take part in planned elections next year.

Ms Suu Kyi, 64, has spent 14 of the past 20 years under house arrest.

Senator Webb, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific affairs, has previously called for more "constructive" US engagement with Burma.

He said in July that the trial of Ms Suu Kyi would make this difficult.

The UN Security Council expressed "serious concern" following Ms Suu Kyi's conviction earlier this week and urged the release of all political prisoners, while the EU extended sanctions against Burma.

But Burma's neighbour China said the world should respect its laws.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is the current chairman of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) told the BBC that imposing sanctions could lead to problems and that it was important to take a balanced approach to dealing with Burma.

Print Sponsor

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific