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Last Updated: Friday, 14 May, 2004, 13:05 GMT 14:05 UK
Burma opposition to boycott talks
Aung San Suu Kyi
Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in a military crackdown nearly a year ago
Burma's main opposition party has said it will boycott next week's landmark constitutional convention organised by the military government.

The National League for Democracy said it took the decision after the military government refused to free its party leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The junta portrays the talks as the first step in a roadmap to democracy.

But correspondents say the convention is likely to lose a lot of credibility if the NLD is not present.

The convention is planned to open on 17 May, with this Friday being the deadline for the NLD to register.

But party chairman Aung Shwe told reporters: "The NLD does not believe that it will be able to benefit the nation by participating in the National Convention. Therefore, the NLD decided that it will not attend."

"The government refused to agree to our demands to release Aung San Suu Kyi and (NLD vice chairman) Tin Oo," he added.

The two NDL leaders are still under house arrest in Rangoon.

Aung Shwe also said the government had turned down the NLD's key demand for reopening all of its offices before the convention. Currently, only the NLD's headquarters in Rangoon are open.

"The NLD will not participate in the National convention under these conditions," Aung Shwe said.

Burma has been criticised by the United States and the European Union over its human rights record and the continued detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other opposition members.

Outside Burma, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi is seen as a vitally important step in the path to democracy.

But the government in Rangoon maintains the opposition leader is not a fundamental part of the process, a BBC correspondent in the region says.

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