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World leaders issue Burma warning

Foreign ministers from key nations have warned Burma's military junta that the release of political prisoners including detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was "essential" for forthcoming elections to be seen as credible, the UN chief said.

United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon said after a closed-door meeting in New York that the ministers repeated the need for the election process "to be more inclusive, participatory and transparent".

There was no representative from Burma at the gathering and no immediate response from the government.

The November 7 elections will be Burma's first in two decades, part of the junta's long-announced "road map to democracy", which critics deride as a sham designed to cement nearly 50 years of military rule.

Ms Suu Kyi's disbanded National League for Democracy party marked what would be its 22nd anniversary on Monday under tight surveillance. The military government dissolved the party earlier this year after it decided to boycott the election.

Mr Ban said the ministers stressed that it was "essential for the election to be seen as credible and to contribute to Burma's stability and development".

"The group further reiterated its commitment to work together to help Burma address its political, humanitarian and development challenges in parallel with equal attention," the UN chief said, adding that the ministers were unified "in calling on Burma to make further efforts towards national reconciliation and democracy".

Mr Ban met senior officials from Burma during the current ministerial session and said he would "continue my dialogue" in Hanoi at the upcoming summit of the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations - ASEAN.

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