Former military ruler Than Shwe has pledged support for Aung San Suu Kyi, who he has called Myanmar's "future leader". He had headed the former military junta before stepping down in 2011 and had kept the 1991 Nobel peace laureate under house arrest for most of his 19-year rule.

"It is the truth that she will become the future leader of the country. I will support her with all of my efforts," Than Shwe was quoted as saying by his grandson, Nay Shwe Thway Aung, who acted as an intermediary during the secret meeting between his grandfather and Suu Kyi. He wrote on his Facebook page that the meeting lasted for two-and-a-half hours.

The meeting was held to discuss the country's move to multiparty democracy after the National League for Democracy (NLD) party won a landslide victory in the elections held in October. The NLD win does not give it control of parliament as the constitution guarantees the military 25% of the seats in parliament and also several key ministries.

"Their meeting was a crucial step forward for politics in Myanmar, and it will be very helpful in promoting a peaceful transition," NLD spokesman Win Htain was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia. "Than Shwe is believed to still wield influence in the government and the military to some degree, and this is why Suu Kyi decided to meet with him. The NLD has been asking consistently for political dialogue since 1989," he said.

Suu Kyi cannot become the president because of a clause in the constitution that bars anyone with foreign children from the post. She, however, has said that she would find someone for the position but would be the final authority when it comes to deciding on all matters concerning the country.

"If I'm required to field a president who meets the requirements of section F of the constitution, all right then we'll find one. But that won't stop me making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party," Suu Kyi had said.

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