Thursday, June 19, 2008

Britain's Brown, France's Sarkozy urge immediate release of Myanmar pro-democracy leader


LONDON (AP) - Britain and France demanded Thursday that Myanmar's regime release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as she marked her 63rd birthday under house arrest.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that her release is essential.

Suu Kyi has spent more than 12 of the last 18 years under detention, since her party swept national elections in 1990. Military rulers refused to honor the results.

"You have sacrificed your freedom for the freedom of others. You have shown exceptional courage and dedication to your people. Your release from house arrest and your freedom to participate in Burma's political future remain essential," the leaders said in a joint letter to Suu Kyi.

Brown and Sarkozy met in Paris on Thursday, before a European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium.

In their letter, Brown and Sarkozy also deplored Myanmar's response to the May 2-3 Cyclone, Nargis, which Myanmar's ruling junta says killed more than 78,000 people and left another 56,000 people missing.

The men said it was regrettable that Myanmar's people "already deprived of basic human freedoms and economic opportunities, have fallen victim to such a major natural disaster."

Their letter rebuked the military regime in Myanmar, also known as Burma, for failing to take up sufficient offers of aid.

Sarkozy and Brown criticized the junta's decision to hold a referendum on a new constitution in the aftermath of the cyclone.

The constitution, which gives the military broad powers, was overwhelmingly approved in the national referendum held on May 10, about a week after the cyclone.

"We believe the recent referendum lacks credibility as a genuine reflection of the people's will and the new constitution cannot provide a sound basis for Burma's future political development," the European leaders said.

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