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Burma Puts on Show of Military Might and Defiance


Burma put on a show of might and defiance today as it marked its annual Armed Forces Day in the military-ruled country's new capital of Naypyidaw.

In nationally televised remarks, Burmese military leader General Than Shwe accused world powers of trying to undermine national unity by turning the country's ethnic groups against each other.

He also accused what he called "powerful countries" of trying to weaken the Burmese armed forces.

Foreign reporters were invited to attend the annual gathering for the first time.

Although he reportedly is suffering from ill health, the 74 year old general stood up out of the sun roof of his stretch Mercedes as he inspected 15,000 troops under the hot morning sun.

General Than Shwe says one of his most important priorities is maintaining Burmese sovereignty.

Diplomats are watching his health closely after he spent time in Singapore in January for medical checks.

General Than Shwe has ruled Burma since 1992, but has not clearly designated a successor.

Western nations have urged Burma's military rulers to take steps to improve human rights conditions and release Aung San Su Kyi and about 11,00 other political prisoners.

The military refuses to recognize the general election victory of her party in 1990.

Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.

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