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Senior US Diplomat Calls for Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

The United States is renewing its call for Burma to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. A senior U.S. State Department official will discuss the issue this week with the United Nations envoy brokering talks between Burma's leadership and the opposition.

James Kelly, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said Washington would prefer that Aung San Suu Kyi be released "sooner rather than later." He has planned to voice his concerns later this week when meeting with the United Nations' special envoy to Burma, Razali Ismail.

Mr. Razali has been brokering talks between Burma's military government and Aung San Suu Kyi. His shuttle diplomacy has helped win the release of about 250 political prisoners from Burmese jails.

Mr. Kelly is on a tour of Asia and has been meeting with foreign ministers and senior officials.

At a press conference Thursday, he said the U.S. hopes to see other improvements in Burma's political system. "We want to see, as I said before, Aung San Suu Kyi released from house arrest. We want to see a more open and transparent political process than we have had before. We want to see court procedures that are more transparent and do not involve the unexplained disappearances of citizens. We hope that Burma will do these things better," Mr. Kelly said.

Mr. Kelly said he thought Mr. Razali's work had made some gains in Burma's political situation over the past year.

But he seemed disappointed over the lack of substantial progress in the dialogue between the military government and Aung San Suu Kyi.

"Although it shows some promise, it just goes on and on, and so slow, and we are a little impatient. But this is a long-standing problem and to have an experienced diplomat from the region such as Ambassador Razali going there to work on it is good news," Mr. Kelly said. Mr. Kelly will talk with Mr Razali during a visit to Kuala Lumpur, which starts Friday. The U.S. diplomat is also expected to meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Malaysia is seen as having a key role in prodding the Burmese government toward political reforms, and Prime Minister Mahathir strongly backs Mr. Razali's efforts.