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US urge Myanmar to release political prisoners

The US has said it is ready to improve relations with Myanmar if the ruling junta makes a move towards releasing political prisoners.

india Updated: May 24, 2006 18:17 IST

A top US diplomat said on Tuesday that Washington is ready to improve relations with Myanmar if the ruling military junta makes a move toward the release of political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

US Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, who was in Bangkok for a regional meeting, reiterated Washington's stance days after a top United Nations official visited the military state, meeting with government leaders and Suu Kyi.

Suu Kyi, head of the opposition National League for Democracy, has been held in detention, mostly under house arrest, for about 10 of the last 17 years.

"We have called for her release, we have called for the release of the many hundreds, even thousands of political prisoners, we've called for a resumption of dialogues," Hill said.

"If we see a movement in this direction, if we see an effort, of course we'll respond."

US President George W Bush last week extended financial and other sanctions against Myanmar, also known as Burma.

The sanctions, which were due to expire on May 18, have been in place since 1997. Suu Kyi's current sentence is set to end on Saturday, but government leaders have yet to indicate whether the term will be extended.

She is in virtual solitary confinement at her residence in Yangon, allowed no outside visitors except occasional checks by her personal physician, and no telephone contact.

Myanmar national police chief Maj Gen Khin Yi said on Tuesday that Suu Kyi is unlikely to pose a serious political threat to the junta as her support has dwindled.

Ibrahim Gambari, UN undersecretary for general political affairs, met with Suu Kyi and junta leaders in Myanmar last week during a visit aimed at pressuring Yangon for greater reforms.

The ruling military junta took power in 1988 after crushing a pro-democracy movement.

In 1990, it refused to hand over power when Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory in general elections.

First Published: May 24, 2006 18:17 IST