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Democracy campaigner spreads wings

Burma opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has made her first political trip outside the repressive nation's main city since her release from seven years of house arrest, a crucial journey that will test the limits of her freedom.

The last time the democracy campaigner travelled into the countryside to meet supporters, assailants ambushed her entourage in an attack that eventually saw her detained and later placed under a long house arrest from which she was released last November.

Ms Suu Kyi's one-day voyage to meet supporters today in two towns north of the main city of Rangoon was proceeding peacefully despite a government warning that it could trigger riots.

In the town of Bago, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate greeted more than 300 supporters at a pagoda as crowds shouted: "Long Live Daw Aung San Suu Kyi!"

Maw Thuza, a 35-year-old woman watching the scene, said: "I can die happily now that I've seen her."

Ms Suu Kyi was travelling in a three-car convoy followed by about 27 more vehicles - filled mostly with journalists and supporters. Some people stood along the roadsides to wave as she passed. Security agents, with wireless microphones protruding from their civilian clothes, monitored the visit.

Bago is about 50 miles north of Rangoon. Ms Suu Kyi was also to visit political supporters in the nearby town of Thanatpin and open a public library, said one of her spokesman, Nyan Win, who said he expected the day to be peaceful.

More trips will follow, but neither the dates nor the destinations have been decided, Mr Win said.

Win Htein, a leader of Ms Suu Kyi's party, said the trip was crucial because it "will test the reaction of the authorities and will test the response of the people.

"This trip will be a test for everything," Mr Htein said.

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