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Burma Urges Vigilance Against Foreign Interference on 63rd Anniversary

Guard of Honor march in front of city hall to participate in a ceremony to mark 63rd anniversary of Independence Day, Jan. 4, 2011, in Naypyitaw, Burma.

Burma's military government leader Than Shwe marked the 63rd anniversary of Burma's independence Tuesday with a call for vigilance against any form of foreign disruption that could bring the country under alien influence.

The general said certain countries are seeking to break up Burma's national cohesion in order to weaken and control it.

He did not name a country, but the remark follows a U.S. call last week for Burma to use the anniversary as an occasion to release its 2,200 political prisoners and begin a dialogue with opposition parties.

Naing Aung, the secretary-general of a coalition of exiled Burmese opposition groups, told VOA Tuesday that the release of the prisoners is a necessary first condition for that dialogue to go forward.

Naing Aung, a former doctor and student activist who leads the Forum for Democracy in Burma, also said he believes the military government will only engage in dialogue as the result of "people power pressure inside Burma," backed by pressure from the international community.

Late last year, the junta held the country's first parliamentary elections in 20 years and released pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

The elections were conducted under rules that made it impossible for the opposition parties to win more than a handful of seats. Prominent opposition leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi were not allowed to run.

Nevertheless, opposition parties inside and outside Burma say they wish to pursue dialogue with the new government when it is formed.

Naing Aung told VOA "We will continue to engage with the new government and work for reconciliation."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.