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Suu Kyi can run for parliament

Burma's election commission has given opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the green light to run for parliamentary by-elections, seen as a key test of the long-repressed country's commitment to democratic reforms.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ms Suu Kyi, 66, previously announced her intention to run in the April elections, but was waiting for official approval from the commission, which said it had to scrutinise her eligibility.

The commission said it had no objection to Ms Suu Kyi's bid and officially accepted her candidacy.

After nearly half a century of iron-fisted military rule in Burma, a nominally civilian government took office last March. The April polls are being held to fill 48 seats vacated by politicians appointed to the cabinet and other posts.

A spokesman for Ms Suu Kyi's party said the commission approved her candidacy and would make a formal announcement later.

"There is no objection to her nomination and we can say that her candidacy is officially accepted," Nyan Win said.

A nominally civilian government took office last March. The new government has surprised even some of the country's toughest critics by releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing ceasefire deals with ethnic rebels, increasing media freedom and easing censorship laws.

Burma's government hopes the rapid changes will prompt the West to lift economic sanctions imposed on the country during the military junta's rule. Western governments and the United Nations have said they will review the sanctions only after gauging whether the April polls are carried out freely and fairly.

Even if Ms Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party wins all 48 seats, it will have minimal power. The 440-seat lower house of parliament is heavily weighted with military appointees and allies of the former junta.

But a victory would be historic for the campaigner who spent most of the last two decades under house arrest. She would have a voice in parliament for the first time after decades as the country's opposition leader.

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