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'We are deeply concerned'

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2003--U.S. President George Bush is pressing personally for the release of detained Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a senior Pentagon official told Radio Free Asia (RFA). Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz also said the United States is pursuing "every possible avenue" to secure her release and promote democracy in Burma.

Wolfowitz said he was �personally very concerned, [and] more importantly I know the whole administration--the U.S. administration including the President of the United States--have discussed her case and are trying to pursue every avenue possible to assure her safety, to get her released, and ultimately the goal is to have the election in that country honored,� Wolfowitz said in an interview. He was referring to the 1990 electoral victory of Aung San Suu Kyi�s National League for Democracy (NLD), which the ruling junta has simply ignored.

�I was in a meeting with the President with a foreign head of government where he pressed the case very strongly and made it clear that he understands what's at stake here, the fundamental issue of human rights and democracy,� Wolfowitz said. �Aung San Suu Kyi has been a real heroine in this fight. She is greatly admired here in the United States, and we are deeply concerned about her situation.�

On Wednesday, Bush joined Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in calling for "an immediate substantive political dialogue" in Burma. A day later the Burmese government, which calls itself the State Peace and Development Council, blamed the NLD for the ongoing political stalemate.

Governments worldwide have called on the junta to release Aung San Suu Kyi, detained two weeks ago after a clash between her supporters and a pro-government mob in the northern part of the country. Eyewitness accounts obtained by RFA's Burmese service suggest that the violence was orchestrated and provoked by the junta, contradicting official claims that it erupted spontaneously.

Aung San Suu Kyi has spent much of her adult life under house arrest for her nonviolent struggle for democracy. She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

RFA broadcasts news and information to Asian listeners who lack regular access to full and balanced reporting in their domestic media. Through its broadcasts and call-in programs, RFA aims to fill a critical gap in the lives of people across Asia. Created by Congress in 1994 and incorporated in 1996, RFA currently broadcasts in Burmese, Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin, the Wu dialect, Vietnamese, Tibetan (Uke, Amdo, and Kham), and Uyghur. It adheres to the highest standards of journalism and aims to exemplify accuracy, balance, and fairness in its editorial content. #####


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