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Burma May Soon Release Democracy Advocate Aung San Suu Kyi

In this Nov. 12, 2010 photo, supporters of Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi hold portraits of their detained leader outside her National League for Democracy party in Rangoon, Burma.

Burma's military rulers appear to be on the verge of releasing pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, 65, from house arrest, after detaining her for most of the past two decades.

On Friday, a day ahead of her scheduled release, government officials told the French news agency her release was a certainty, although no time was mentioned.

And Tin Oo, vice chairman of her banned National League for Democracy party, said his sources told him her release order has been signed.

Authorities increased security in Rangoon as supporters gathered near her lakeside home and at the party's headquarters.

A Saturday release would be six days after Burma's first election in two decades. The military's political party already has claimed a majority of seats in both houses of parliament, in voting that Western leaders and human rights activists say was fraudulent and aimed at ensuring continued military rule with a civilian face.

Four United Nations human rights experts on Friday called for Aung San Suu Kyi's immediate release, as well as that of more than 2,200 political prisoners held in Burma. They said release of the dissidents would be a "step towards national reconciliation." The four U.N. officials are Tomas Ojea Quintana, El-Hadji Malick Sow, Frank La Rue and Margaret Sekaggya.

Aung San Suu Kyi's release would raise immediate questions about how much freedom the military rulers will grant her. Her followers say she will not accept any conditions on release. Her lawyer says the Nobel Peace laureate would resume political activities.

Her party won a landslide victory in the last Burmese election in 1990, but the military rulers refused to let it take power. Now, some analysts think the military might view Aung San Suu Kyi's release as a way to soften overseas criticism of last Sunday's election.

The rulers did not allow international observers to enter Burma to watch the voting, but there were reports of punishment being meted out to those who voted against the military's political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

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

Timeline of Major Political Events in Burma

on Dipity.