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Annan Criticizes Burma for Imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi


U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has criticized Burma for extending the house arrest of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, after hinting she would be freed. Mr. Annan said he was disappointed at the decision, but would not give up efforts to win the Nobel laureate's release.

Secretary-General Annan Tuesday said Burma's ruling military junta had missed a significant opportunity by failing to release Aung San Suu Kyi last week. "I'm disappointed that when the government reviewed her detention, they did not decide to release her. I will continue to work with our partners in the region and as you may have noted, quite a few of them issued statements appealing for her release," he said.

Hopes for Aung San Suu Kyi's release had been raised this month when Burmese authorities allowed U.N. Undersecretary General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari to visit her. He was the first foreigner to see the 60-year-old Nobel laureate in more than two years.

Gambari also met with Burmese senior general Than Shwe, and told reporters afterward that the country seemed interested in ending its status as an international pariah.

But despite strong international pressure, the military junta in Rangoon extended Aung San Suu Kyi's term of detention, sparking renewed calls for the U.N. Security Council to take up the issue.

On the eve of the decision, Secretary-General Annan had urged Burmese leaders to, in his words "do the right thing." During a visit to Thailand Friday, he attempted to call General Than Shwe, but for some unexplained reason, the call did not go through.

When asked by VOA Tuesday if he was still hopeful that Aung San Suu Kyi would be released soon, Mr. Annan replied, "We're going to work very hard." Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the secretary-general is still looking for what he called "some movement" from Burma. "Obviously, lines of communication have now been opened with Yangoon following Mr. Gambari's visit, and we hope to keep, to exploit those lines to move the process forward," he said.

Several countries, including the United States and France, have sharply criticized the extended house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi. She has spent more than 10 of the last 16 years in detention.

But Burma's leaders appear to have shrugged off international criticism. Burmese Foreign Minister Nyan Win was quoted Monday as calling the extension Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest a domestic issue, not a matter for international concern.

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