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Burma Frees Opposition's Deputy Chairman

Tin Oo, deputy leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), talks to journalists at his residence following the expiry of his detention in Rangoon, Burma, 13 Feb 2010

Burmese authorities have freed the deputy chairman of the country's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy.

Tin Oo, who is in his early 80's, was released Saturday, after nearly seven years in detention.

Tin Oo told VOA Saturday that his party will not participate in this year's election unless its conditions are met. He said one of the conditions is the release of the party's top leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, so she can participate in the election. She is under house arrest which expires November.

The military government has announced general elections for this year, without naming the date.

Tin Oo said he would resume his political activities with the opposition and work for democracy in Burma.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon welcomed Tin Oo's release. He said he hoped the move will lead to a more credible and inclusive political process in Burma.

The Secretary General also called on Burma's government to release all remaining political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Monday, the United Nations' top human rights envoy for Burma, Tomas Ojea Quintana, starts a five-day visit to the country.

He is expected to urge the military government to permit the opposition and ethnic parties to participate in the upcoming elections.

Tin Oo was arrested together with Aung San Suu Kyi in May of 2003 on charges of disturbing public order, after their convoy was attacked in a northern village (of Depayin) by a government-sponsored mob. Aung San Suu Kyi has spent 14 of the past 20 years in some form of detention. Her latest house arrest term expires in November.

The National League for Democracy swept Burma's last parliamentary elections in 1990, but the country's military rulers never recognized the results. The military has ruled the country since 1962.

Tin Oo said the Voice of America radio in Burmese was his main source of news information while in detention.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.