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ASEAN could call for Suu Kyi release

WASHINGTON, Aug 17 – The Southeast Asian regional bloc ASEAN could call on Myanmar to free democracy icon Aung Sang Suu Kyi, US Senator Jim Webb said Monday, after his landmark trip to the military-ruled state.

"(That) would be a major step forward in resolving this situation," Webb told CNN, after saying the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could be preparing to petition the ruling junta to grant her an amnesty.

Leading ASEAN member Thailand has urged the bloc to back a request to reclusive Myanmar leader Than Shwe to pardon Suu Kyi, whose house arrest was extended last week.

The 10-nation bloc, currently chaired by Thailand, has faced frequent criticism for taking a soft line on Myanmar, its most troublesome member.

Than Shwe ordered Suu Kyi to serve another 18 months of house arrest on Tuesday after a court convicted her and an eccentric American man, John Yettaw, who swam to her lakeside home.

International anger erupted at Myanmar after the verdict, but ASEAN\’s reaction was typically muted, expressing only "deep disappointment" at the detention of Suu Kyi.

Yettaw flew out of military-ruled Myanmar on Sunday with Webb, who secured the eccentric former military veteran\’s release by the junta from a sentence of seven years\’ hard labor.

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