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Burma Marks Landmark Anniversary of Independence

Burma's military rulers staged a low-key ceremony Friday to celebrate the country's 60th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule.

A speech by military leader Senior General Than Shwe was read during a flag-raising ceremony in the new capital city of Naypyidaw. In the speech, the general says Burma will build a "discipline-flourishing democratic state" based on a seven-stage road map.

Critics have denounced the road map as a sham because it keeps the military in formal power, and bars the National League for Democracy, the opposition party led by democratic icon Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel peace laureate has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years.

Riot police were deployed in the main city of Rangoon, where more than 300 people attended a separate ceremony at the NLD's headquarters, including party activists and Western diplomats.

The ceremony was closely monitored by plainclothes police officers.

Meanwhile, U.S. first lady Laura Bush issued a strong criticism of Burma's military leadership on the country's 60th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule. In a statement, the first lady said "instead of celebrating their freedom, the Burmese people live in fear, poverty and oppression under General Than Shwe and his military regime."

The international community has condemned Burma over its bloody crackdown of last September's pro-democracy protests, led by Buddhist monks.

The United Nations says at least 31 people were killed in the crackdown.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.