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Burma Denies Aung San Suu Kyi Hunger Strike Report

Burma's military government rejects a United States claim that detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, is on a hunger strike. But Aung San Suu Kyi has held hunger strikes in the past.

Burma's government dismissed the U.S. report that the democracy activist is on a hunger strike, calling it "quite odd."

On Sunday, the United States said the National League for Democracy leader had launched a hunger strike to protest her detention.

She has been held since May 30, after pro-government protestors clashed with her supporters in northern Burma.

Jean-Pascal Moret of the International Committee if the Red Cross in Rangoon said he can not verify the hunger strike report.

"We are in discussion with the government, with the authorities to make a second visit - as we do with any other political detainees registered by the ICRC," said Mr. Moret. "So that Aung San Suu Kyi is or not on hunger strike will not change our procedures."

The Red Cross last visited Aung San Suu Kyi on July 28. It has asked to visit again, but so far no visit has been scheduled.

Burma's government says it remains "fully responsible for the welfare of its political prisoners."

The hunger strike report came a day after Burma's new prime minister, Khin Nyunt, set out a plan to work toward democracy.

But opposition groups say General Khin Nyunt's speech was disappointing, because he gave no indication of when Aung San Suu Kyi might be freed. He also gave no timetable for the elections.

Aung Zaw, editor of the opposition Irrawaddy newspaper, said Aung San Suu Kyi may have started the hunger strike after the prime minister's speech.

"I think a lot of people presume that Suu Kyi, along with other political dissidents and opposition parties, must be very disappointed with [Khin Nyunt's] speech," he said, "so I presume she went on hunger strike."

Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent much of the past 13 years under house arrest, has gone on hunger strikes on several occasions to protest government policies and restrictions on her and the NLD.

In 1991, she had to recover at a military hospital after a hunger strike. In 1998, she spent 10 days on a hunger strike in her car along a roadside, after the government barred her from traveling outside Rangoon.

Burma is facing intense international pressure to release Aung San Suu Kyi. The United States and the European Union have recently imposed tough new economic sanctions.