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US Condemns Burma on Aung San Suu Kyi Decision

The United States has criticized Burma's Supreme Court for not releasing opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from her extended house arrest.

A State Department official told reporters the Burmese court's ruling Friday was "purely political." He noted that the U.S. has consistently urged the ruling military in Burma to free its political prisoners.

New York Congressman Joe Crowley, a member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, issued a statement calling Aung San Suu Kyi's continuing house arrest "a sham from day one." Crowley said the military must face consequences for violating the human rights of the Burmese people.

He said it is time for the United States to fully implement increased targeted sanctions against officials in Than Shwe's military regime under the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act.

Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted last year of violating the terms of her detention when she gave shelter to an American man who swam to her lakeside Rangoon house uninvited.

Burma's Supreme Court on Friday rejected an appeal against the latest extension of her house arrest.

She initially was sentenced to three years of hard labor. But Senior General Than Shwe, the head of the ruling military, commuted her sentence to just an extra 18 months of house detention.

Aung San Suu Kyi's legal team argued that the extension was not lawful, because it was based on provisions from the 1974 constitution, which is no longer in force.

Her lawyers say they will pursue a final, special appeal.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon said he is "disappointed" Aung San Suu Kyi's appeal was dismissed. He called for the release of all political prisoners in Burma and for their participation in its political process.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "appalled and saddened" at the court's decision. He also said the sole purpose of Aung San Suu Kyi's trial was to prevent her from taking part in this year's elections.

The government of Singapore issued a statement urging talks between the Burmese military, Aung San Suu Kyi and other political groups ahead of the elections. Singapore said those talks would offer the best chance for "national reconciliation and the long-term political stability" of Burma.

Burma's military leaders said they will hold elections later this year, for the first time in two decades.

Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition National League for Democracy won the 1990 election, but the military refused to relinquish power. The military has kept her under some form of detention for 14 of the last 20 years.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.