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Burmese Opposition Marks National Day, Calls for Leader's Release

The party of Burma's detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for the immediate and unconditional release of its leader and other political prisoners on Burma's National Day.

During a ceremony Tuesday at its headquarters in Rangoon, the National League for Democracy issued a statement calling for national unity.

Tuesday was the 87th anniversary of a student protest movement against Burma's British colonial rulers.

Separately, Burma's top leader General Than Shwe Tuesday spoke in support of the government's roadmap to democracy.

Also Tuesday, the U.S. State Department issued a statement condemning the Burmese government's exclusion of opposition and ethnic leaders from the drafting of a new constitution.

Spokesman Sean McCormack said the military government's statements show that it has no intention of beginning a genuine, inclusive dialogue with these parties as called for by the international community.

U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns will be in Australia and Singapore this week to encourage greater pressure from Southeast Asian countries on Burma's government.

Earlier, the military government announced an amnesty for more than eight-thousand prisoners in what it described as a gesture to the United Nations and a celebration of progress on the long-awaited constitution.

As officials met Monday to work on drafting a new constitution, military leaders ruled out any role for Aung San Suu Kyi in that process.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 12 of the last 18 years under some form of detention and remains under house arrest in Rangoon.

Her party won elections in 1990, but Burma's government refused to recognize the results and prevented the party from taking office.