In Burma, delegates to the military government's constitutional convention began work, but with most of the main opposition parties boycotting the process. Foreign governments are criticizing the convention as illegitimate and the U.N. special envoy is pressing to have the main democracy opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, released from house arrest.

U.N. special envoy, Razali Ismail, told reporters he is prepared to travel to Rangoon to facilitate the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and National League for Democracy vice-chairman U Tin Oo.

The two leaders were among more than 100 NLD officials detained a year ago after a clash between NLD members and government supporters. NLD offices were closed following the incident.

The NLD has refused to participate in the constitutional convention as long as its top officials are detained.

U.N. envoy Razali, who has been mediating between the military government and the opposition for more than three years, says a lot of people believe the release of Aung San Suu Kyi will help bring about better stability in Burma. Mr. Razali says he plans to ask China, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to do more on Burma.

Since announcing last August that it would hold a convention as a part of a seven-point plan for a political transition to democracy, Burma's government has been indicating it would release Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been active in the search of a solution to the stalemate in Burma, said it was his understanding that Aung San Suu Kyi would be free by now. Mr. Thaksin says is asking Burmese Prime Minister Khin Nyunt to visit Bangkok next month to discuss the situation.

The national constitutional convention originally opened in 1993, but was suspended three-years later, after NLD delegates walked out saying the government was manipulating the proceedings.

But NLD spokesman U Lwin says the party is prepared to suspend these objections and attend this week's meeting.

"This can be settled during this meeting," he said. "So we agreed that we are prepared to go on this understanding. The problem is the release of our two leaders and the opening of our offices."

World leaders say the convention will be meaningless without the participation of the NLD, which won national elections in 1990, but was never allowed to govern.

Nevertheless, more than 1,000 delegates representing various sectors of society have gathered outside Rangoon for the convention.

Organizers published a list of objectives that include the preservation of the unity of Burma and a leadership role for the military in politics. And they published a code of discipline that prohibits delegates from submitting documents that have not been approved by the organizing committee and prohibits delegates from walking out of the proceedings.