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UN Envoy: Burma to Free Opposition Leader Soon - 2003-06-10


The special United Nations envoy to Burma has left Rangoon after being assured by the military government that it will soon release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from detention.

Malaysian diplomat Razali Ismail got to see Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi Tuesday before the end of his five-day mission seeking to win her freedom. He told reporters the pro-democracy leader was in good health and good spirits. Mr. Razali said he hopes she will be freed within the next two weeks.

The U.N. diplomat said there was no indication Aung San Suu Kyi was hurt in violent clashes between her supporters and pro-government demonstrators last month in northern Burma. She and some members of her political party were arrested after the clashes.

After Mr. Razali left Rangoon, the government issued a statement reaffirming its intention to free Aung San Suu Kyi as soon as an investigation into the clashes is complete. It did not give a timetable.

The U.N. envoy told reporters he urged the military to free her immediately and resume stalled dialogue on political reconciliation.

The government has faced a storm of international criticism and the threat of increased economic sanctions because of Aung San Suu Kyi's detention.

During talks in Washington Tuesday, President Bush and visiting Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra agreed on the need for her immediate release, as well as the release of other members of her National League for Democracy.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate was ready to consider imposing additional sanctions against Burma in response to the detention.

At the United Nations, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Burma's military to immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi and resume political reconciliation talks with her. Mr. Annan issued a statement saying the arrest of the opposition leader goes against the will of the Burmese people.

Information for this report is provided by AFP and Reuters.

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