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Bush condemns Suu Kyi detention

world Updated: May 27, 2008 22:45 IST
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US President George W. Bush said Tuesday he was "deeply troubled" by the Myanmar ruling junta's decision to extend democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest by another year.

"I am deeply troubled by the Burmese regime's extension of National League for Democracy General Secretary and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest," Bush said in a statement. Washington calls the country Burma.

"The United States calls upon the regime to release all political prisoners in Burma and begin a genuine dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy, and other democratic and ethnic minority groups on a transition to democracy," said Bush.

Myanmar officials Tuesday went to the lakeside Yangon home that has been Aung San Suu Kyi's prison for most of the last 18 years and delivered the news of her continued detention during a 10-minute meeting, a state official said.

Bush said the move would not hamper US efforts to aid Myanmar in the wake of the devastation wrought by Cyclone Nargis.

"The United States will continue to help the people of Burma recover from the devastation of Cyclone Nargis and will continue to support the Burmese people's long term struggle for freedom," said the US president.

The storm has left 133,000 dead or missing and many of the 2.4 million survivors remain in dire need of food, shelter and medication three weeks after the disaster, according to the United Nations and relief agencies.

Bush said that he and wife Laura, who has taken a leading role in Washington on criticizing the junta, "look forward to the day when the people of Burma know true liberty and democracy."

Seven Myanmar officials went to the lakeside Yangon home that has been Aung San Suu Kyi's prison for most of the last 18 years and delivered the news on Tuesday afternoon during a 10-minute meeting, a state official said.

"Her detention was extended by one year," the official told AFP.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner's most recent period in detention began on May 30, 2003, when her convoy was ambushed while she toured upcountry.

The junta says four people were killed in that attack, but the party puts the toll at nearly 100, and Bush in his statement referred to "the murderous assault by regime-sponsored thugs on her motorocade."

After the ambush, Aung San Suu Kyi was initially confined at the notorious Insein prison, but was allowed to return to her home in September 2003.

At the US State Department, spokesman Sean McCormack said the extension was "a sad statement about the state of political freedom in Burma."

"While it isn't a surprise, the regime missed yet another opportunity to begin the process of dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi," he added.

Asked if the arrest would hinder US participation in international relief efforts for the cyclone-hit country, McCormack said: "No, we've tried to separate out these two things.

"We will continue to speak out on behalf of human rights, but part of trying to do what is right for the Burmese people is to provide humanitarian assistance in a time of extreme need in Burma, McCormack said.

Earlier Tuesday, about 30 of her supporters tried to march towards her home, but security forces broke up the protest and arrested 16 people including a 12-year-old boy, a spokesman from her National League for Democracy party said.

The arrests came as the NLD held a ceremony to mark the anniversary of its victory in 1990 elections, which was ignored by the ruling military junta.