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Suu Kyi is 'global symbol' of progress, says U.N. secretary

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
September 21, 2012 -- Updated 1702 GMT (0102 HKT)
 Aung San Suu Kyi and Ban Ki-Moon speak to the media following a meeting at the U.N. on September 21, 2012 in New York City.
Aung San Suu Kyi and Ban Ki-Moon speak to the media following a meeting at the U.N. on September 21, 2012 in New York City.
  • During visit to U.S., Aung San Suu Kyi met with U.N. secretary general
  • Suu Kyi is was jailed for years for advocating for democracy in Myanmar
  • She stressed that the country's new president and she must work together to bring reform

(CNN) -- United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon met with Burmese democratic activist Aung San Suu Kyi Friday.

Suu Kyi, a 67-year-old Nobel Prize winner, is in the United States for a 17-day tour.

The two smiled and shook hands for photographers.

She was held on house arrest in her native Myanmar, also known as Burma, for the better part of 20 years for her political activism. She was freed in November 2010 and is now a member of Myanmar's parliament.

Suu Kyi awarded Congressional medal
Aung San Suu Kyi visits the U.S.

This isn't the first time Ban and Suu Kyi have met. He met her while visiting Myanmar in May.

"When I visited Myanmar she welcomed me very kindly," he said. "I invited her to visit the United Nations."

Ban praised Suu Kyi's "commitment to peace, security and human rights."

"She has become a global symbol" of progress, he said.

Ban turned to her and said, "Let us walk together" in helping Myanmar on a path toward democracy.

Myanmar's President Thein Sein is expected to give a speech at the U.N. General Assembly next week.

A reporter asked Suu Kyi about whether she is concerned about possibly "outshining" Thein because she is so globally famous and beloved.

"I don't think we should think about this in terms of personalities," Suu Kyi answered. "I think we should think about it as a common goal. If we all want to achieve genuine democracy for Burma, we have to learn to work together and not think about our impact as personalities, either in our country or in the world at large."

Since beginning public appearances this week, Suu Kyi has met with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as numerous other senior lawmakers.

She'll travel to Kentucky, and then next week arrive in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where there is a large population of Burmese expatriots.

At the U.N. Friday a reporter asked her to describe her meeting with Obama and how she feels about the lifting of sanctions against Myanmar.

She politely declined to describe her talk with Obama, explaining that she doesn't normally disclose private discussions.

"I was happy to meet him and I consider it a good meeting," she said.

"I am happy that sanctions have been lifted because as I've been saying, rather ad nauseam, that the Burmese people (need) to take responsibility for the democratization" of the country.

Earlier this week Suu Kyi accepted the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.

She called the ceremony in Washington one of the most moving days of her life.

"From the depths of my heart, I thank you, the people of America, and you, their representatives," she said to the gathered members of Congress, "for keeping us in your hearts and minds during the dark years when freedom and justice seemed beyond our reach."

Sen. John McCain was overcome with emotion when he, among other political heavyweights in Washington, praised Suu Kyi.

McCain called Suu Kyi "his personal hero."

"They did all they could to break her," the Arizona Republican said of the military junta that detained her. McCain, who was a POW in Vietnam, choked up, his voice breaking.

"Aung San Suu Kyi didn't scare a damn," he told the crowd.

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