U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is calling on Burma's military rulers to begin a "realistic dialogue" for peace and national reconciliation, and to release all political prisoners immediately.
Rice's message, broadcast to the Burmese people today-Tuesday, marked the anniversary of an attack on members of the opposition National League for Democracy in 2003. Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been held under house arrest since the incident three years ago - an ambush known as the Depayin Massacre that targeted the Nobel Peace Prize winner's motorcade in northern Burma.
The European Union and other nations including Norway also are calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and urging the Burmese junta to open a dialogue with pro-democracy forces and the country's ethnic minorities.
The Australia Burma Council, a group of Burmese exiles, is asking Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to take tough action to pressure Burma's military rulers on the political-prisoners issue. And the Burmese government in exile is asking China,
India and other states bordering Burma in southeast Asia to bring the problem before the United Nations Security Council.
Burma's generals have just ordered on Saturday a one-year extension of the indefinite term of imprisonment that Aung San Suu Kyi is serving at her home near Rangoon. Her National League for Democracy won Burma's last elections, in 1990, by an
overwhelming margin, but the military leadership refuses to yield power to a civilian government.
Aung San Suu Kyi has never been able to travel to Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to her in 1991. She has been detained or under house arrest for 10 of the past 17 years.
Here in Washington, Secretary Rice denounced the junta for robbing Burma of its freedom and democracy. In a message recorded for broadcast to Burma, she assured the Burmese people that "America stands with you."
The past 16 years have been a time of tragedy, she says, but the Burmese people's desire for liberty, dignity and prosperity is "stronger than the forces of tyranny."