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U.S., Britain Urge Burma to Release Pro-Democracy Leader - 2003-06-06


The United States and Britain are demanding the Burmese government release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The U.S. State Department said Thursday the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her party (the National League for Democracy) is "outrageous and unacceptable."

The State Department said the party's offices should be reopened immediately and its activities no longer curtailed.

U.S. and British officials also called on Burma to allow a UN special envoy (Razali Ismail) access to Aung San Suu Kyi when he visits the country today (Friday).

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said a refusal by Rangoon to allow such access will constitute a rebuff to the international community.

In Bangkok Thursday, Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai said Burma's military rulers have assured him Aung San Suu Kyi's detention is only temporary.

In related news, two U.S. senators stressed the urgency of legislation they introduced Wednesday to impose sanctions on Burma for its poor record of democracy and human rights.

California's Dianne Feinstein said she hopes the bill sends a strong message to what she called a "despicable military junta that controls" the country.

The other sponsor, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, urged Washington to lead an international effort to force democratic change in Burma.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said U.S. officials in Burma believe government-affiliated "thugs" conducted a premeditated ambush on Aung San Suu Kyi and several of her supporters last week.

The attack followed a clash between pro-military demonstrators and Aung San Suu Kyi's followers in the northern town of Yaway Oo. A U.S. embassy official in Rangoon told the Associated Press far more people died in the clash than the four reported by the government.

There have been widespread reports Aung San Suu Kyi was injured in the clash.

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