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Last Updated: Friday, 26 May 2006, 12:02 GMT 13:02 UK
UN head calls for Suu Kyi release
Aung San Suu Kyi. File photo
Aung San Suu Kyi's current period of detention is due to end on Saturday
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has appealed to the head of Burma's military junta to free opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

"I am relying on you, General Than Shwe, to do the right thing," Mr Annan told reporters in Bangkok.

Aung San Suu Kyi's current term of house arrest ends on Saturday. Last time it expired it was extended.

But hopes were raised that she might be freed after a senior UN envoy was allowed to meet her last week.

Mr Annan said Aung San Suu Kyi needed to be included in the junta's avowed "roadmap to democracy".

"For the democratic process and the reconciliation process to be truly successful, it has to be inclusive and she has a role to play," he said.

Reasons for hope

Police paid a brief visit to Aung San Suu Kyi's home late on Friday, according to eyewitnesses, though the purpose of the visit was not clear.

An AFP correspondent reported seeing officers removing barbed wire barriers which lined the outside of the house.

Senior UN official Ibrahim Gambari, who met Aung San Suu Kyi on a trip to Burma last week, has said there are signs Burma is seeking to improve its relationship with the international community.

1989: Put under house arrest as Burma's leaders declare martial law
1990: National League for Democracy (NLD) wins general election; military does not recognise the result
1991: Wins Nobel Peace Prize
1995: Released from house arrest, but movements restricted
2000-02: Second period of house arrest
May 2003: Detained after clash between NLD and government forces
Sep 2003: Allowed home after medical treatment, but under effective house arrest

The fact the junta allowed him to meet the pro-democracy leader - he was the first diplomat to do so since 2004 - could indicate Burmese leaders were keen to "open up a new chapter", Mr Gambari said.

Mr Gambari, who also met General Than Shwe during his three-day visit, said he thought the Burmese authorities could see the advantages of a new approach.

"I think they recognise that it would be in their benefit, including on issues such as help on HIV and other social, economic and humanitarian problems," he said.

In addition, Burma's police chief, Major-General Khin Yi, told reporters at a police meeting in Kuala Lumpur last week that her release would not necessarily lead to political instability.

"I don't think there are a lot of supporters for her. Some members of the NLD [her National League for Democracy party] have resigned."

BBC correspondent Andrew Harding says observers are sceptical about the junta's strategy, arguing that even if she is released again, it is simply a short-term tactic to buy time and head off criticism from the UN Security Council.

She has been released before only to be detained the moment the regime felt threatened.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 10 of the last 16 years. The NLD won a landslide election victory in 1990 but the military refused to hand over power.

Kofi Annan's appeals for Aung San Suu Kyi release

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