Suu Kyi hopes fade

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Bangkok (Reuter) - Hopes for the release of Burma's dissident leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, faded yesterday as the Rangoon junta said she would be freed only when a constitution is complete. This could take three years.

Speculation that Ms Suu Kyi could be freed was fuelled by hints from some members of the junta that they did not want to keep her under house arrest past January, but Rangoon-based diplomats pointed out that her sentence expires in July.

The Thai Foreign Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, said on returning from Burma on Thursday that he had asked about Ms Suu Kyi, and had been told the constitutional convention must finish its work first.The constitutional convention, active since January 1993, has only completed three of the document's 15 sections.

Ms Suu Kyi, 49, who won the Nobel peace prize for her resistance to Burma's military authorities, was first detained in July 1989 on vague charges of endangering the state.

The regime's chairman, General Than Shwe, and the head of military intelligence, Lieutenant-General Khin Nyunt, met her for the first time last September. A second meeting with General Khin Nyunt in October, fuelled speculation her release might be imminent.