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Aung San Suu Kyi Votes in Criticized Burma Referendum

Burmese officials say detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has cast an early ballot in a constitutional referendum that is being held Saturday in areas devastated by Cyclone Nargis on May 3.

The officials say Aung San Suu Kyi gave her ballot to authorities at her house, where she has been under detention for the past five years.

The referendum is on the military government's proposed constitution, which it says will lead to general elections in 2010. Opposition and human rights groups say it will only strengthen the military's control.

The government delayed the referendum in areas devastated by the cyclone, but voting was carried out in other parts of the country a week after the storm hit, prompting an outcry from the international community.

The government has already announced that voters overwhelmingly approved the draft constitution.

The European Parliament Thursday also decried what it called Burmese leaders "distorted priorities" in holding the second stage of voting in storm-hit areas, where many have yet to receive any disaster relief.

The latest one-year extension of Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest expires in the coming days. Her lawyer, U.S.-based Jared Genser, has said there is no legal basis for continued detention, as Burmese law allows for a person to be held without charge or trial for a maximum of five years.

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