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Myanmar in major military reshuffle ahead of vote: official

world Updated: Aug 27, 2010 20:25 IST

Myanmar's feared junta has undertaken a major military reshuffle ahead of rare elections, an official said on Friday, without confirming reports that Than Shwe was among those shedding their uniforms.

A total of 15 senior leaders, including the army number three Thura Shwe Mann have retired from their military posts to stand in the November 7 poll -- the first held in the country in two decades -- the unnamed official said.

But he did not confirm earlier reports that 77-year-old Than Shwe could be among those stepping down from the army, along with deputy Maung Aye.

"Thura Shwe Mann and some other generals retired from the military, they will prepare for the elections," the official said.

According to the Irrawaddy website Myanmar's senior general Than Shwe, who has ruled the impoverished country with an iron fist since 1992, retired from his army post but would remain head of state.

Meanwhile, a report on the Democratic Voice of Burma website said Than Shwe and Maung Aye were rumoured to be preparing to become the official president and vice president of the pro-junta Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

The conflicting reports come as the country gears up for its first elections since democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) was denied office by the junta after winning a landslide victory in 1990.

Critics have dismissed the upcoming vote as a sham aimed at putting a civilian mask on the junta, while Suu Kyi, who has been in detention for much of the last twenty years, is barred from standing.