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Burmese Opposition Re-opens Headquarters amid Call from EU to Release Suu Kyi - 2004-04-18


Burma's military government has allowed the opposition National League for Democracy to re-open its headquarters in Rangoon, nearly a year after closing it.

The NLD and all other opposition party offices were shut last May as part of a nationwide crackdown on the pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition leaders were detained during the crackdown. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is still under house arrest, but some other opposition leaders have been freed.

European Union foreign ministers discussed the issue Saturday in Ireland.

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot says the ministers agreed that Aung San Suu Kyi must be released and the NLD given a role in writing a new constitution in order for Burma to join the Asia-Europe Meeting forum -- a grouping of EU and Asian countries.

Also Saturday, the French news agency says several hundred NLD supporters marched peacefully in Rangoon to call for the release of their leaders.

AFP says police turned the demonstrators away as they headed toward Aung San Suu Kyi's residence.

The developments Saturday come a month before the Burmese military government holds a national convention to draft a new constitution for the country.

The opposition has been invited to the May 17th meeting, but says it cannot participate unless all its leaders are freed.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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