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Burmese Government Criticized for Opening Convention Without Pro-Democracy Leaders - 2004-05-18


World leaders are criticizing Burma's military government for opening a convention to draft a new constitution without the country's main pro-democracy leaders.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said Monday the constitutional talks are not credible without the full participation of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other groups. He said through a spokesman that delegates must be able to express their views without threat of sanction.

EU leaders Monday expressed "deep disappointment" with Burmese authorities, saying they have failed to begin a process of national reconciliation and a peaceful transition to democracy.

The opposition National League for Democracy was invited to attend the convention, which opened Monday. But the party declined after the military refused to free party leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

Eight parties representing different ethnic groups also declined to attend.

More than one thousand delegates, most of them hand-picked by military rulers, attended the convention's opening ceremonies at a heavily-guarded compound north of Rangoon.

Elsewhere, police arrested about 20 Burmese citizens demonstrating in support of Aung San Suu Kyi outside the Burmese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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

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