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Tuesday, 14 May, 2002, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Burma releases political prisoners
Aung San Suu Kyi (right) smiles as she arrives at her party headquarters, 7 May 2002
Suu Kyi says her supporters' release is a priority
Burma's ruling military junta has freed nine jailed members of the National League of Democracy - the first political prisoners to be released since their leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, emerged from house arrest last week.

Their release is not only important in humanitarian terms but also political terms

Aung San Suu Kyi
"They are all in good health and reunited with their respective families," said a statement from the office of the military spokesman.

About 290 political prisoners, mostly from the NLD, have been released since the ruling junta started reconciliation talks with Aung San Suu Kyi in October 2000, but human rights groups say about 1,500 more remain in jails.

The NLD leader said, on her release from 20 months of incarceration, that freeing not only her supporters, but all political prisoners, was one of her priorities.

Japanese visit

The nine NLD members' release came as the Nobel laureate met a top Japanese Foreign Ministry official, Taeko Takahashi - the most senior official to visit Aung San Suu Kyi since her release.

The pro-democracy leader is reported to have said that she plans to visit Japan, Burma's biggest aid donor, some time this year.

Mr Takahashi was also expected to meet Burmese economic minister Brigadier General David Abel later on Tuesday.

Burma's military government said last week that it will resume national reconciliation talks with Aung San Suu Kyi soon, aimed at breaking the country's political impasse.

The NLD won a landslide victory in 1990 elections but the military refused to hand over power.

But the junta has come under increasing pressure in recent months, as the international community has threatened tougher trade sanctions unless Burma reforms.

See also:

09 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's military set for new talks
08 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Aung San Suu Kyi 'strengthened'
07 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Suu Kyi presses on for reform
06 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
World welcomes Suu Kyi release
07 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
Burma's long road ahead
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