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Clinton Urges Immediate, Unconditional, Freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday called for the immediate and unconditional release of Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who faces possible imprisonment for allegedly violating terms of her house arrest. Clinton discussed the issue with Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Anifah bin Haji Aman.

Clinton says the latest criminal charges against Aung San Suu Kyi are baseless and she is urging Malaysia, other members of ASEAN - the Association of Southeast Asian Nations - and regional powers including China to use their leverage to gain the release of the opposition leader.

Aung San Suu Kyi, whose latest term of house arrest was about to expire, has been charged with violating terms of her detention after a bizarre incident in which a U.S. national swam to her lakeside home.

At a press event with her Malaysian counterpart, Clinton said she is deeply troubled by the new charges against the Nobel peace laureate, which she said run counter to the rule of law, the charter of ASEAN - of which Burma is a member - and efforts to promote national reconciliation and progress in that country.

"We oppose the regime's efforts to use this incident as a pretext to place further unjustified restrictions on her," said hillary Clinton. "And therefore we call on the Burmese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally, along with her doctor, and the more than 21 hundred [2,100] political prisoners currently being held."

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party won Burmese national elections in 1990 but she was barred from taking power and has been under various forms of detention most of the time since then.

Clinton said she had great admiration for Aung Sann Suu Kyi's sacrifices and love of country and said while there can be political differences in every society, countries should abide by the rule of law and in the case of Burma the ASEAN charter to which it is a signatory.

For his part, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah said his government shares concern about the situation in Burma and will seek the involvement of the ASEAN Secretariat on the issue - saying the solution of the matter lies with engagement, and not the isolation, of the Burmese military government.

The two also discussed the issue of maritime piracy off the Somali coast, with Clinton hailing Malaysia's role in naval patrols in the region and past successes against pirates in the critical Strait of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Clinton said she will visit Southeast Asia in July to attend a regional forum with ASEAN foreign ministers in Thailand.