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International Community Awaits Release of Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi - 2002-05-02

The release from house arrest of Burma's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi appears to be imminent. While it would be a major breakthrough in the country's political deadlock, some analysts say it may mean the opposition has compromised with the military government.

The National League for Democracy says party leader Aung San Suu Kyi could be free by Saturday or Sunday. NLD vice chairman Tin Oo says the release follows an agreement between the party and Burma's military government. Tin Oo Thursday confirmed wide speculation that Aung San Suu Kyi would soon be released. But he refused to give details of the agreement with the government.

Her release would be a significant success in efforts by United Nations special envoy Razali Ismail to broker reconciliation talks between the government and the NLD leader. The talks, which began in late 2000, had appeared to have stalled. But Mr. Razali's recent efforts and increasing international impatience with Rangoon appear to have led to a breakthrough.

Some observers say a deal to free her means the NLD must have compromised with the government, known as the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC. Chaiyachoke Chulasiriwong is a professor of international politics at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University.

"After her release things probably will go according to the negotiations," he said. "She will be asked to join the administration or something of that sort. She will be asked to join cultural affairs. And I'm quite sure the SPDC probably will ask her not to be involved in political affairs."

Aung San Suu Kyi's release has been a prime condition by the international community. It is seen as a first step toward easing international economic sanctions against the military government, which has been in power since 1988. The NLD leader has spent much of the 1990s under house arrest in Rangoon. The military government has refused to recognize the party's sweeping victory in elections more than a decade ago.