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By Aung Hla Tun
YANGON (Reuters) - Myanmar's ruling junta allowed detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi to meet Western diplomats on Friday, a week after she asked for talks about sanctions on the isolated country.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner was driven to a state guesthouse where she talked for an hour with the deputy heads of the U.S. and Australian missions and the ambassador of Britain, which represented the European Union.
It was the third time in six days Myanmar's military rulers have allowed Suu Kyi to attend meetings outside her lakeside home, where she is held under house arrest.
The Australian government said the meeting was organised by Myanmar's rulers at Suu Kyi's request to gather information on Western sanctions that could be used in her talks with the junta.
Australia's charge d'affaires in Yangon, Simon Starr, conveyed a message of support for Suu Kyi's "struggle for democracy," an Australian statement said, describing the meeting as a "positive step" for both Myanmar's authorities and Suu Kyi.
"The message expressed the hope that her sacrifice would in time lead to a better Burma," the statement said, using the country's former name, adding that the 64-year-old National League for Democracy (NLD) party leader appeared in good health.
Suu Kyi has been detained for 14 of the last 20 years and had her house arrest extended by 18 months in August for letting an American intruder stay at her home for two days.
She met Labour Minister Aung Kyi, the designated junta go-between, on Saturday and Wednesday. It was not known what was discussed in either of the meetings.
"We look forward to hearing directly from Aung San Suu Kyi, her views regarding the situation in Burma," said a U.S. diplomat.
Analysts and Suu Kyi's party, which she has not been in contact with, said they believe the meeting was related to her recent offer to work with the reclusive regime to lobby for the lifting of sanctions, which critics say have failed.
Suu Kyi, daughter of Myanmar independence hero General Aung San, has voiced support for a recent change in approach by the United States, which has opted for engagement with Myanmar under the Obama administration, but with its embargoes still in place.
U.S. sanctions were imposed in 1988, when the army that has ruled Myanmar since a 1962 coup violently crushed pro-democracy demonstrations, killing an estimated 3,000 people.
The EU has had sanctions in place since 1996. They were further tightened after a harsh crackdown on monk-led protests in 2007. Australia has visa restrictions on the regime and a ban on defence exports.
Critics say the extension of Suu Kyi's house arrest was intended to minimise her influence on next year's elections, the first since 1990 when her NLD won but was never allowed to rule.
(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Jason Szep and Bill Tarrant)