The leader of Burma's military government has warned against foreign interference in national elections slated for later this year, saying political parties should avoid "divisive" and "slanderous" campaigning.
Senior General Than Shwe spoke to 13,000 troops on Saturday, Burma's Armed Forces Day, in Naypyidaw, the remote administrative capital. He said the elections are "only the beginning of the process of fostering democracy."
Burma has been under military rule since 1962. It last held elections in 1990, which were won decisively by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy. But the military refused to let the party assume power.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been under some form of detention for 14 of the past 20 years. She is urging her party not to participate in the voting. A decision is expected shortly.
No date has been set for the elections, which are largely seen as a sham designed to keep the military in power.
On Friday, the U.N. Human Rights Council urged the release of the more than 21,000 Burmese political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. A Council resolution called on the country's generals to take steps to ensure a free, transparent and fair electoral process.
Burma's Armed Forces Day marks the beginning in 1945 of the revolt against Japanese rule during World War II.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.