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Burma Opens National Convention on Draft Constitution


Burma's military government has begun what it says is a final round of talks on a new draft constitution.

The National Convention opened today at a tightly guarded center about 40 kilometers north of Rangoon. Information Minister Kyaw Hsan says the talks could last at least a month and a half. They have been ongoing for the past 14 years.

The military says it will put the final draft charter up for a referendum, a key step in its so-called "roadmap to democracy" and free elections. No timetable has been set for that process.

Critics of the process say the military is using the new charter to solidify its grip on power. The military government hand-picked most of the convention's delegates, and the opposition National League of Democracy has boycotted the process for the past decade.

The opposition party won national elections in 1990, but Burma's military leaders refused to recognize those results. The party's secretary-general, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has spent 12 of the past 18 years under house
arrest.

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