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Saturday, 8 December, 2001, 20:08 GMT
Peace greats urge Suu Kyi release
East Timorese leader Jose Ramos Horta and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel
Nobel laureates braved rain in Oslo for the event
Nobel peace prize winners and politicians from around the world have paid tribute to the Burmese opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and called for her release from house arrest.

They appealed to the military regime in Burma to release 56-year-old Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for much of the last 13 years, despite winning elections in 1990.

Big men are scared of her - armed to the teeth and they still run scared

Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu
The event marks 10 years since Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the peace prize for her continued non-violent resistance to the junta.

"In physical stature she is petite and elegant, but in moral stature she is a giant," said the retired Anglican Archbishop from South Africa, Desmond Tutu.

"Big men are scared of her. Armed to the teeth and they still run scared," he said.

Empty seat

The laureates have come together for festivities celebrating 100 years of the peace prize.

But Geir Lundestad, non-voting secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee said they were all thinking of the empty chair that belonged to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Aung San Suu Kyi addresses supporters outside her house
Aung San Suu Kyi: under house arrest for 13 years
In a letter, the laureates called on Than Swe, the head of the ruling regime, to release of other political prisoners in Burma and comply with UN resolutions demanding negotiations on democracy.

Messages of support came from around the world.

President George W Bush lauded Aung San Suu Kyi, addressing by satellite link a rally of hundreds assembled in the rain in front of the Norwegian parliament building.

"In the face of great hardship she has never wavered in her commitment to peaceful change," Mr Bush said, although he did not add his voice to calls to release other political prisoners.

Global support

The UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw urged the military leaders to use current talks with Aung San Suu Kyi as an opportunity to move the country towards democracy.

"Her strength has given hope to thousands of Burmese who have endured great hardship for holding firm to these beliefs," he said in London, in a statement that follows an appeal by the UK-based human rights charity Amnesty International earlier this week.

The Dalai Lama at the Nobel Laureates' event in Oslo
The Dalai Lama gave his support to the plea
The event was one in more than 30 taking place around the world, including a peace concert held at Bangkok's Thammasat University where Thais joined Burmese immigrants in support of democracy in the neighbouring country.

The events took place amid reports that the NLD had reopened a key office in Kamayut township, near the University of Yangon, the scene of the 1998 pro-democracy uprising which was crushed by the junta.

Since last October, Aung San Suu Kyi has been holding secret United Nations-brokered talks with junta leaders, which have led to the release of nearly 200 political prisoners.

'Absolutely confident'

Aung San Suu Kyi has not appeared in public since September 2000, when she was put under de facto house arrest for attempting to travel outside the capital Rangoon for a political meeting.

Her telephone has been disconnected, but she reportedly has access to a shortwave radio.

In a videotaped statement released last year, Aung San Suu Kyi said she remained optimistic.

"We are absolutely confident that democracy will come to Burma," she said. "It is important that we achieve our goal quickly because people suffer too much."

The BBC's Richard Fabb
"Mr Annan said he was humbled by the honour"
See also:

07 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
'Free Aung San Suu Kyi'
05 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's slow road to reform
06 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burma opposition denies 'power share'
27 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Burmese opposition backs talks
19 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Burma talks stalled
19 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Opposition prisoners freed in Burma
29 Mar 99 | Asia-Pacific
Suu Kyi 'refuses funeral visa'
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