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Hague denounces 'sham' Burma polls

Foreign Secretary William Hague has denounced planned elections in Burma as "a sham process designed to keep the regime in power".

His comments came after it was announced that the main opposition movement, the National League for Democracy, had been dissolved by the authorities less than two months before the November 7 poll.

The League, led by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi, won the last national elections to be staged in the south-east Asian state in 1990, but the generals overturned the result.

The Foreign Office in London said the Burmese authorities had also rejected the registration of five parties representing some of the country's ethnic minorities.

And reports on Thursday said the elections had been called off in several areas - mostly parts of the country where ethnic minorities are dominant.

In a statement Mr Hague said: "These actions expose the elections in Burma for what they are - a sham process designed to keep the regime in power and deny the Burmese people their right to freely choose their leaders.

"The elections should have been a chance for national reconciliation; helping to end decades of ethnic conflict and needless poverty in the country. This opportunity is being squandered.

"These latest developments should be greeted with dismay and condemnation by the international community and a renewed determination to support the people of Burma."

Shadow foreign secretary David Miliband said: "These elections will not be free, and they will not be fair. All these elections will do is tighten the junta's grip on the throat of Burma's people.

"Political opinions in Burma are effectively banned, and while the people of Burma are prevented from being able to speak out, it's important we do so on their behalf."

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