With Suu Kyi, Clinton the star becomes fan


For years, Hillary Clinton has hobnobbed with the world's powerful and been welcomed as a virtual rock star. But Friday, she was the one who was star-struck as she met a personal hero Aung San Suu Kyi.

On a landmark visit to Myanmar, Clinton spent hours getting to know the Nobel Peace Prize-winning democracy icon, hugging her and kissing her on the cheeks in a meeting between two of the world's top women leaders.

With a gentle breeze softening the tropical heat, Suu Kyi escorted Clinton through the garden of her lakefront villa that served as her prison for most of the past two decades, walking reflectively around dozens of potted plants.

Clinton, who is almost always surrounded by aides on foreign trips, met for a three-hour one-on-one dinner Thursday with Suu Kyi at the US mission where the chef was asked to prepare local dishes which the opposition leader enjoys.

Strikingly, the two women even dressed alike. At their dinner, Suu Kyi and Clinton both wore white tunics and tied back their hair, in what aides to the top US diplomat insisted was coincidence.

Clinton on Friday wore a silver beaded necklace which Suu Kyi had designed herself and presented to her the night before.

Clinton even offered Suu Kyi a chewy toy for her small but energetic dog. But on that front, Clinton was warned that she might be eliciting jealousy.

"Stay away from the dog," Suu Kyi said in a deadpan voice as Clinton said hello to the pet. "He treats people who are close to me as a threat."

Clinton -- whose husband, the former US president Bill Clinton, studied at Oxford University at the same time as Suu Kyi -- said she had waited a long time to meet the democracy icon and that Americans "admire her deeply."

"We have been inspired by her fearlessness in the face of intimidation -- her serenity through decades of isolation -- but most of all her devotion to her country and to the freedom and dignity of her fellow citizens," Clinton said after the meeting.

Clinton, who narrowly lost her bid to be the first female US president, said she offered advice to Suu Kyi, who at 66 is only two years her senior, about her plans to run for parliament as part of Myanmar's transition to democracy.

"We talked last night about the ups and downs and the slings and arrows of political participation anywhere in the world," Clinton said.

A senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said after Clinton's meetings with Suu Kyi that he believed "the beginning of a warm friendship was started here".

"It's very clear that these two women have played historic roles in each of their lives," the official said. "There is clearly a sharing and a connection. It's just undeniable."

Clinton was paying the first visit by a US secretary of state to Myanmar in more than half a century. But while it was impossible for her to meet Suu Kyi until now, Clinton has frequently praised her in the past.

Presenting her with the 'Vital Voices' award for women absentia in Washington earlier this year, Clinton hailed Suu Kyi for enduring her years under house arrest 'with unfaltering grace and the strength of steel'.

Clinton has long put a priority on encouraging women in leadership roles. Upon meeting her at the dinner, Clinton almost immediately thanked Suu Kyi for keeping a memento from the 1995 UN conference in Beijing where the then US First Lady delivered a spirited speech on the role of women.

And Clinton now has a memento of her own. As she flew into Myanmar, Clinton in her cabin watched Luc Besson's new film 'The Lady,' starring Michelle Yeoh as Suu Kyi, which was given to Clinton as a gift before its release in cinemas.

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