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US Urges Burma to Free Political Prisoners Ahead of Independence Day

The United States is calling on Burma's military rulers to free all political prisoners and engage in dialogue with opposition groups as the country prepares to mark its 63rd independence anniversary.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner issued a statement Thursday saying the Burmese government must take action to meet the aspirations of its diverse peoples and improve relations with the Obama administration. He also congratulated the people of Burma ahead of their independence day on January 4.

The Burmese military released opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from years of house arrest last month, but only after holding a rare general election denounced by Western nations and opposition groups as a sham. Rights groups also say the Burmese military continues to detain more than 2,100 political prisoners.

Toner reiterated U.S. calls for the release of those prisoners and said the Burmese military must engage in an "inclusive and meaningful dialogue" with all citizens in pursuit of "genuine national reconciliation."

He said the United States is "unwavering" in its support of an independent, peaceful, prosperous and democratic Burma. He also said Washington looks forward to the day when the Burmese people will succeed in "peaceful efforts" to freely exercise what he called "their universal human rights."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.