Page last updated at 18:48 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 19:48 UK

Burma junta 'to free dissidents'

By Laura Trevelyan
UN correspondent, BBC News, New York

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (right) shakes hands with Burmese general Than Shwe in Nay Pyi Taw, 4 July
Mr Ban (right) had been criticised for appearing to secure little on his visit

Burma is preparing to release political prisoners to allow them to take part in national elections next year.

The move comes at the request of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who visited the country last week.

It was announced at the Security Council by Burma's UN envoy Than Swe. He did not say how many of the estimated 2,100 inmates would go free.

Mr Ban described the move as encouraging, but said he would have to follow up on this and other issues.

Using careful bureaucratic language, Mr Than Swe said the Burmese government was processing the granting of an amnesty to political prisoners so they could take part in the 2010 elections.

The ambassador did not say whether the most famous of the prisoners, the jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, would be included.

That seems unlikely. The ambassador warned that only appropriate recommendations from Mr Ban would be implemented.

UN officials will be relieved that there has been some progress following Mr Ban's trip.

He had faced criticism for returning apparently empty handed, with the generals refusing to allow him to see Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.

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